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QE and a gradually strengthening economy will remain positive catalysts for equities in the euro area this year. But with the MSCI EU ex -UK up almost 24% in the first quarter, the best quarterly performance since Q4 1999, the question is whether the good news has already been priced in.
Mr. Macron will be in Berlin today with the message that France wants a strong Eurozone and a tight relationship with Germany. Friendly overtures between Paris and Berlin are good news for investors; they reduce political uncertainty while increasing the chance that the economic recovery will continue. But it is too early to get excited about closer fiscal coordination, let alone a common EZ fiscal policy and bond issuance.
The second round of EZ GDP data on Friday confirmed the resilience of cyclical upturn. Real GDP in the euro area rose 0.5% quarter-on-quarter in Q1, up from 0.3% in Q4, and the fastest pace since the first quarter of last year. But the headline was slightly lower than the initial estimate, 0.6%, and consistent with our forecast before Friday's data.
We are sticking to our view that the Eurozone's trade surplus will fall in the next six months, despite yesterday's upbeat report. The seasonally adjusted trade surplus leapt to a record high of €25.0B in September from revised €21.0B in August, lifted by an increase in exports and a decline in imports.
Monetary dynamics in the Eurozone were virtually unchanged last month. M3 growth rose trivially to 5.0% year-over-year in March from a revised 4.9% in February. It was lifted by stronger growth in medium-term deposits and issuance of short-term debt.
Money supply dynamics in the Eurozone continue to signal a solid outlook for the economy. Headline M3 growth eased marginally to 4.9% year-over-year in January, from 5.0% in December; the dip was due to slowing narrow money growth, falling to 8.4% from 8.8% the month before. The details of the M1 data, however, showed that the headline chiefly was hit by slowing growth in deposits by insurance and pension funds.
Recent bond market volatility has left a significant mark on Eurozone credit markets. The recent slide in the Bloomberg composite index for Eurozone corporate bonds is the biggest since the U.S. taper tantrum in 2013. The prospect of a Fed hike later this year and rising inflation expectations in the Eurozone have changed the balance of risk for fixed income markets.
Business surveys coming out of the Eurozone have been remarkably strong recently. The composite PMI for the Eurozone jumped to 56.7 in March--its highest level since April 2011--from 56.1 in February. Germany's IFO business climate index leaped to a 67-month high in March.
Money supply data continue to send a bullish message on the euro area economy. Broad money growth was unchanged at 5.0% year-over-year in June, but M1 growth surged to 11.8%, from 11.2% in May. Combined with low inflation, real M1--the best leading indicator in the Eurozone--indicates a surge in GDP growth on par with previous record business cycle upturns in 1999, 2005-06 and 2009-10.
Eurozone investors continue to look to the ECB as the main reason to justify a constructive stance on the equity market. Last week, the central bank all but promised additional easing in March, but the soothing words by Mr. Draghi have, so far, given only a limited lift to equities. Easy monetary policy has partly been offset by external risks, in the form of fears over slow growth in China, and the risk of low oil prices sparking a wave of corporate defaults. But uncertainty over earnings is another story we frequently hear from disappointed equity investors. We continue to think that QE and ZIRP offer powerful support for equity valuations in the Eurozone, but weak earnings are a key missing link in the story.
Economic data in the Eurozone are sending an increasingly upbeat message on the economy. Yesterday saw a barrage of numbers, but the most startling of them was the continued acceleration in the money supply.
Hard economic data for the first quarter will appear over the next few weeks, but the EC sentiment survey later today gives a useful overview of how the euro area economy started the year.
The market for new cars in the Eurozone remained red-hot last month. New registrations surged 18.4% year-over-year in May, up from a 9.4% rise in April, and pushing the 12-month average level of registrations to a post-crisis high of 843K units. Accelerating growth in Italy and France was the key driver.
Final inflation for February in the Eurozone likely will be confirmed today at -0.3% year-over-year, up from -0.6% in January. This bounce was mainly driven by a reduced drag from falling oil and food prices, but it is too early to call a trough in headline inflation.
Consumers' demand for cars slowed in the Eurozone at the end of the second quarter. New car registrations in the euro area rose 3.0% year-over-year in June, slowing dramatically from a 10.3% rise in May.
The euro has so far defied the most bearish forecasters' predictions that it is on track for parity with the dollar. Currencies can disregard long-run parity conditions, however, for longer than most investors can hold positions.
The Eurosystem's position on Greece, echoed by Mr. Draghi earlier this week, is that progress on a deal is up to the Syriza-led government. But recent comments by German officials have added to the speculation that a Grexit is getting closer.
Yesterday's trade data showed that the Eurozone's external balance continues to improve markedly. The seasonally adjusted trade surplus in the euro area rose to €23.3B in December, a new all-time high, from a revised €21.6B in November.
Friday's PMIs gave the first hint of Q4 growth in the Eurozone, and continue to tell a story of a stable cyclical recovery. The composite PMI in the Eurozone rose 54.0 in October from 53.6 in September, mainly due to a rise in the services index, to 54.2 from 53.7. Assuming the PMI remains unchanged over the remainder of the quarter, the survey indicates solid GDP growth of 0.4%-to-0.5% quarter-on-quarter in Q4.
Advance inflation data on Friday added to the gloom on the Eurozone economy. Reports from Germany, France, and Spain all surprised to the downside, indicating the euro area as a whole slipped back into deflation in February. Inflation in Germany dipped to 0.0% year-over-year in February, from 0.5% in January, and France slid back into deflation as the CPI index fell 0.2%, down from a 0.2 increase last month.
Markets' reaction last week to the ECB's October meeting accounts--see here--shows that investors are beginning to take seriously the idea of an inflection point in Eurozone monetary policy.
Today's data likely will show that inflation in the Eurozone rebounded in November.
While we were enjoying a rare sunny bank holiday in the U.K., data showed that Eurozone money supply growth slowed at the start of Q3. Broad money growth--M3--fell to a 10-month low of 4.5% year-over- year in July, from 5.0% in August.
Eurozone industrial production data today will confirm that economic growth likely accelerated in the first quarter. We think output rose 0.7% month-to-month in February, equivalent to a 0.8% increase year-over-year.
Monthly manufacturing and retail sales data point to upside risk to the consensus expectation of 0.4% quarter-on-quarter in Q1 Eurozone real GDP growth. Advance country data indicate that industrial production was unchanged month-to-month in March, equivalent to a 0.9% increase quarter-on-quarter.
Advance inflation data from Germany and Spain yesterday indicate that the Eurozone slipped back into deflation in September. German inflation fell to 0.0% in September from 0.2% in August, and deflation intensified in Spain as inflation fell to -0.9% from -0.4% last month. This likely pushed the advance Eurozone estimate--released today--below zero. We think inflation fell to -0.1% in September, down from +0.1% in August. The fall will be due mainly to falling energy prices, and we continue to think that the underlying trend in inflation is stabilising, or even turning up.
Investors in Eurozone banks continue to face uncertain times, despite the ECB's best efforts to prop up the economy and financial markets via QE. The latest hit to confidence comes from the bail-in of selected senior debt in Portugal's Banco Espirito Santo. When the troubled lender was restructured in mid-2014, the equity and junior debt were left in a "bad" bank--and were virtually wiped out--while the deposits and senior debt went into the "good" bank Novo Banco. Senior debt holders expecting to recoup their money, however, were startled earlier this month by the decision to "re-assign" five selected bonds with total face value of €2B from Novo Banco to the bad bank, in effect wiping out the investors.
Today will be an incredibly busy day for EZ investors with no fewer than eight major economic reports. Overall, we think the data will tell a story of a stable business cycle upturn and rising inflation. Markets will focus on advance Q4 GDP data in France and in the euro area as a whole. Our mo dels, and survey data, indicate that the EZ economy strengthened at the end of 2016, and we expect the headline data to beat the consensus.
Inflation pressures in the Eurozone probably firmed slightly in August. Data yesterday showed that inflation in Germany and Spain rose by 0.1 percentage points to 1.8% and 1.6% year-over-year respectively, and we are also pencilling-in an increase in French inflation today, ahead of the aggregate EZ report.
Industrial production in the euro area dipped in February. Output fell 0.8% month-to-month pushing the year-over-year rate down to 0.8% from a revised 2.9% in January. This indicates that Eurozone manufacturing continues to lag the pace seen in previous business cycle upturns.
Barring a gigantic shock from the Fed this week--we expect a 25bp hike--Eurozone equities will end the year with a solid return for investors, who have been overweight. Total return of the MSCI EU ex-UK should come in around 10%, which compares to a likely flat return for the MSCI World, reflecting the boost from the ECB's QE driving out performance. Our first chart shows the index has been mainly lifted by consumer sector, healthcare and IT stocks, comfortably making up for weakness in materials and energy. The year has been a story of two halves, however, and global headwinds have intensified since the summer, partly offsetting the surge in the Q1 as markets celebrated the arrival of QE and negative interest rates.
The Eurozone manufacturing sector finished 2017 on a strong note. The headline PMI increased to a cyclical high of 60.6 in December, from 60.1 in November, in line with the initial estimate.
A bullish EZ money supply report was the key highlight while we were away over the holidays. M3 growth in the euro area accelerated to 4.8% year-over-year in November from 4.4% in October.
Industrial production in Eurozone had a decent start to the fourth quarter. Output ex-construction rose 0.6% month-to-month in October, pushing the year-over-year rate up to 1.9% from a revised 1.3% in September. Production was lifted by gains in the major economies, and surging output in the Netherlands, Portugal and Lithuania. Across sectors, increases in production of capital and consumer goods were the main drivers, but energy output also helped, due to a cold spell lifting demand and production in France.
Friday's euro area inflation reported capped a difficult week for EZ bondholders, although most of the damage was done beforehand by the advance German data.
Data today likely will show that manufacturing in the Eurozone was off to a strong start to the second quarter. Advance country data suggest that industrial production jumped 1.1% month-to-month in April, pushing the year-over-year rate up to 1.9% from 0.1% in March. The rise in output was driven mainly by Germany and France, but decent month-to-month gains in Ireland, Portugal and Greece also helped.
The European Court of Justice, ECJ, will not likely pour fuel on the slumbering fire later today by ruling that OMT is in violation of EU law.
Last week's advance EZ GDP data for the first quarter suggest the economy shrugged off the volatility in financial markets. Eurostat's first estimate indicates that real GDP in the euro area rose 0.6% quarter-on-quarter in Q1, up from 0.3% in Q4, and above the consensus, 0.4%.
Industrial companies in the Eurozone are still struggling with low growth, but the outlook is stabilising following the near-recession late last year. The Eurozone manufacturing PMI was unchanged at 51.0 in February, trivially lower than the initial estimate of 51.1.
The Eurozone economy ended the third quarter on a strong note, according to the PMIs.
Markets cheered soaring business surveys in the Eurozone earlier this week, and recent consumer sentiment data also have been cause for celebration. The advance GfK consumer confidence index in Germany rose to a record high of 10.4 in June, from 10.2 in May.
Sterling's renewed depreciation to just €1.10--just below last year's nadir--has fuelled speculation that it could reach parity against the euro within the next year.
The economic calendar in the euro area was relatively quiet over Christmas, and broadly conformed to our expectations.
The PMI survey points to a slow, but steady improvement, in Eurozone manufacturing. The gauge rose marginally to 52.5 in June, up from 52.2 in May. This pushed the quarterly average in Q2 to 52.2, up from 51.1 in Q1. The survey is also telling a story of broad-based manufacturing strength in the two major peripheral economies, despite declines in June.
The PMI survey continues to send a downbeat message on growth in the euro area despite signs of improvement in other sentiment data: The final manufacturing PMI in the Eurozone fell to 50.1 in November from 50.6 in October.
Long term benchmark yields in the Eurozone almost fell to zero towards the end of the first quarter as investors were carried away in their celebration of QE. The counter-reaction to this move, though, was violent with 10-year yields surging from 0.2% to 0.9% in the space of two months from April to June, and we think a similar tantrum could be waiting in the wings for investors. We are particularly wary that upside surprises in inflation data--mainly in Germany--could push yields up sharply in the next few months.
The construction sector in the Eurozone remains moribund. Output fell 0.4% month-to-month in September, pushing the year-over-year rate up to 1.8% from a revised 1.4% fall in August. Declines were recorded in France, Germany, and Italy, with a small increase in Spain. These data could, in theory, lead to revisions in the final Q3 Eurozone GDP data released December 8th, but we very much doubt they will move the needle. Our first chart shows the relationship between construction and GDP growth has broken down since the crisis.
The Eurozone's current account surplus remained close to record highs at the end of Q1, despite dipping slightly to €34.1B in March, from a revised €37.8B in February. A further increase in the services surplus was the key story.
The data tell an increasingly convincing story that the Eurozone's external surplus rose further in the second half of last year.
Advance April consumer survey data will likely confirm that households remain the standout driver of the cyclical recovery in the euro area. We think the headline EC consumer sentiment index rose to -1.0 in April from -3.7 in March.
Advance inflation data in the Eurozone will likely surprise to the upside today. The consensus forecast expects inflation to rise slightly to -0.5% year-over-year in February from -0.6% in January, but we expect a much bigger jump, to -0.2% year-over-year.
The construction sector remains a stand-out performer in the Eurozone economy, despite stumbling at the end of Q2.
Final inflation in the Eurozone was confirmed at 0.0% year-over-year in April, up slightly from -0.1% in March. The recovery since the trough in January has been driven mostly by a reduced drag from lower energy prices, a trend which should continue in the second quarter.
With the euro down more than 23% since the peak of 1.39 against the dollar last year, investors are pondering just how low the single currency can go. If the purchasing power parity holds in the long run, the real effective exchange rate, REER, should be stationary--mean reverting--around a constant average in the long run.
The Eurozone's current account surplus remains in a firm uptrend, and should continue to rise this year, despite a small dip in the February surplus to €26.4B from a revised €30.4B in January.
Friday's inflation data in the Eurozone added a dovish twist to the story ahead of the key ECB meeting later this month.
Labour costs growth accelerated modestly last year in the Eurozone. Data on Friday showed that Q4 nominal labour costs in the Eurozone rose 1.3% year-over-year, slightly higher than the 1.1% increase in Q3. The modest acceleration was mainly due to a rise in "non-business" labour costs, which rose 1.6% year-over-year, up from a 0.9% increase in Q3.
The Eurozone's current account surplus plunged to €18.0B in May from €24.0B, the biggest monthly fall since July 2013, but an upward revision to the April data makes the headline look worse than it is. These numbers are volatile, even after seasonal adjustments, and revisions have been larger than normal this year, so we need to smooth the data to get the true story.
Final PMI data in the Eurozone yesterday confirmed that manufacturing remains under pressure from global headwinds. The manufacturing PMI in the zone fell to 52.0 in September from 52.3 in August, in line with the initial estimate. A rare upside surprise in France was not enough to offset weakness in the other major economies, and the trend in private investment growth likely will stay subdued this year.
Due to a technical quirk, Eurostat was not able to publish seasonally adjusted January trade numbers yesterday, so the report is of limited use. The unadjusted trade surplus in the Eurozone plunged to €7.9B in January, from €24.3B in December, driven in part by a collapse in Italy's surplus.
Solid trade data for April indicate a strong start to Q2 for the Eurozone's external balance, though a €3.2B fall in German net factor income will weigh on the primary income number.
The tailwinds that have propelled Eurozone equities higher since the middle of last year remain place, in principle. In the economy, political uncertainty in the euro area has turned into an opportunity for further integration and reforms, and cyclical momentum in has picked up. And closer to the ground, fundamentals also have improved.
The Eurozone construction sector took a step back at the end of Q1, but only temporarily. Construction output fell 1.1% month-to-month in March, after a revised 5.5% jump in February. The year-over-year rate slipped to +3.6%, from a two-year high of 5.5% in February.
The preliminary April PMIs point to a continuation of the cyclical bounce, despite falling slightly from last month. The composite PMI in the Eurozone fell to 53.5 in April, down from 54.0 in March.
The EZ doom-and-gloom crew has come crawling out of the woodwork again this year. Earlier this month, Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz told a German newspaper that Italy and other euro area countries likely will leave the currency union soon.
PMI data yesterday provided some relief to anxious investors, despite a modest drop in the headline. The composite PMI in the Eurozone fell to 53.9 in September from 54.3 in August, driven by slight falls in both manufacturing and services. Assuming no major changes to the advance September reading--usually a fair bet--the PMI rose marginally in Q3, pointing to a continuation of the cyclical recovery.
The winds of global politics are changing, and the major Eurozone countries could be forced to take heed. Donald Trump's foreign policy position remains highly uncertain. Our Chief Economist, Ian Shepherdson, expects the U.S. to increase defence spending next year; see the U.S. Monitor of October 20.
Yesterday's PMIs kicked off a busy week for Eurozone data on a downbeat note. The composite EZ PMI fell to a five-month low of 55.8 in July, from 56.3 in June; it was constrained by a 0.6 point dip in the manufacturing index to 56.8.
Inflation in the euro area remains under pressure, with both the core and the energy components contributing to the downward trend evident in our first chart. Headline inflation fell to 0.3% year-over-year in November, from 0.4% in October, and we expect a further decline this month.
Growth in EZ car sales slowed further at the beginning of Q4. New registrations in the euro area fell 1.2% year-over-year in October, down from a 7.2% increase in September.
Economic sentiment data, which rebounded in March, continue to suggest slight downside risk to EZ GDP growth in Q1. The composite Eurozone PMI in March rose modestly to 53.7 from 53.0 in February, only partially erasing the weakness in recent months. The PMI dipped slightly over the quarter as a whole, although not enough to change the EZ GDP forecast in a statistically meaningful way.
Investors have been used to central bank policy as a source of low volatility in recent years, but the last six months' events have changed that. Uncertainty over the timing of Fed policy changes this year, an ECB facing political obstacles to fight deflation, and last week's dramatic decision by the SNB to scrap the euro peg have significantly contributed to rising discomfort for markets since the middle of last year.
Investors in the euro area demand to know whether their equities can climb--in local currency terms-- even as the euro appreciates.
The euro area's record-high external surplus has prompted commentators to suggest that the zone has room to loosen fiscal policy to support growth, or at least relax the deficit reduction rules.
Yesterday's final CPI report confirmed that inflation in the euro area increased slightly last month. The headline rate rose to 1.5%, from 1.4% in October, lifted by a 1.7 percentage point increase in energy inflation to 4.9%.
People across Europe are growing wary over the failure of governments to foster economic security since the 2008 crisis. Their conclusion increasingly is that the EU is to blame, so their support for EU-sceptic, and even right-wing nationalist, parties has increased accordingly.
The Eurozone's external surplus weakened at the start of Q3.
The Eurozone has a productivity problem. Between 1997 and 2007, labour productivity rose an average 1.2% year-over-year, but this rate has slowed to a crawl--a mere 0.5%--since the crisis. These data tell an important story about the peaks in EZ GDP growth over the business cycle. Before the financial crisis in 2008, cyclical peaks in Eurozone GDP growth were as high as 3%-to-4% year-over-year.
Economic news in Europe continues to take a back-seat to volatility in politics. Yesterday's announcement by U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May that she is seeking a snap general election on June 8th cast further doubt over what exactly Brexit will look like.
Population ageing is, arguably, the most important long-term socioeconomic trend in the Eurozone. The demographic transition did not end in the 1970s as fertility hit replacement levels, contrary to the prediction by the stylised models of population change.
Manufacturing in the Eurozone had a slow start to the third quarter. Industrial production rose only 0.1% month-to-month in July, though the year-over-year rate was pushed up to 3.2% from a revised 2.8% in June.
Headwinds from global growth fears have weighed on Eurozone equities in recent months, leaving the benchmark MSCI EU ex-UK index with a paltry year-to-date return ex-dividends of 1.7%. We think bravery will be rewarded, though, and see strong performance in the next six months. Equities in Europe do best when excess liquidity --M1 growth in excess of inflation and nominal GDP growth--is high.
Yesterday's economic reports in the Eurozone will rekindle the debate on hard versus soft data. The final composite PMI rose to 56.7 in September, from 55.7 in August, in line with the first estimate.
At the start of the year, consensus forecasts expected Eurozone equities to outperform their global peers this year, on the back of a strengthening cyclical recovery and an increase in earnings growth. Both of these conditions have been met, and yesterday's sentiment data suggest that EZ equity investors remain constructive.
The European financial sector was in the news again on Friday, propelled by further weakness in Deutsche Bank's share price. In our Monitor of September 27, we said that worries of a European "Lehman Moment" were overblown.
The Eurozone economy will have a bright start to 2017, but we think growth over the year as a whole will slow modestly compared with 2016.....
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Fears over a Eurozone banking crisis have compounded market volatility recently, and sent bank equities into a tailspin. Deutsche Bank has been the focus of the attention, probably due to its systemic importance and opaque balance sheet. DB's stock price is down a staggering 38% year-to-date, and earlier this week, the German finance minister had to assure markets that he has no worries about the bank's position.
Data this week clearly hint at a cyclical trough in Eurozone inflation in the first quarter. The advance estimate for April shows year-over-year inflation rising slightly to zero, up from -0.1% in March.
Currency markets often make a mockery of consensus forecasts, and this year has been no exception. Monetary policy divergence between the U.S. and the Eurozone has widened this year; the spread between the Fed funds rate and the ECB's refi rate rose to a 10-year high after the Fed's last hike.
Youth unemployment remains a blemish on the Eurozone economy, despite an increasingly resilient cyclical recovery. The unemployment rate for young workers aged 15-to-24 years stood at 18.4% at the end of April, chiefly due to high joblessness in the periphery.
Final Q2 GDP data yesterday indicate the euro area economy was stronger than initially estimated in the first half of the year. Real GDP rose 0.4% quarter-on-quarter in Q2, slightly higher than the initial estimate of 0.3, following an upwardly revised 0.5% increase in Q1. Upward revisions to GDP in Italy were the key driver of the more upbeat growth picture. The revisions mean that annualised Eurozone growth is now estimated at 1.8% in the first six months of the year, up from the previous 1.4%, consistent with the bullish message from real M1 growth and the composite PMI.
The second estimate of Eurozone GDP confirmed that the economy grew 0.3% quarter-on-quarter in the final three months of last year, up slightly from 0.2% in the third quarter. Gross fixed capital formation and household consumption both rose 0.4%, but the improving trend in euro area GDP growth is almost exclusively driven by consumer spending.
Political risks have been making an unwelcome comeback in the Eurozone in the past month. In Germany, last month's parliamentary elections--see here--has left Mrs. Merkel with a tricky coalition- building exercise.
Inflation data later today will likely show that the Eurozone fell into deflation driven primarily by the big plunge in oil prices since 2008. The consensus expects a 0.1% decline year-over-year, but we look for the CPI to fall slightly more, by 0.2%.
Recent polls in the U.K. have reminded markets that the vote is too close to call at this point, but investors in the Eurozone appear unfazed, so far. The headline Sentix index rose to 9.9 in June, from 6.2 in May, lifted by the expectations index, which increased to a six-month high of 10.0 from 5.5 in May.
Inflation data last week confirmed that the spectre of deflation is slowly but surely encroaching on the euro area. In Germany, inflation slipped to 0.6% year-over- year in November, from 0.8% in October, and in the Eurozone as a whole the he adline rate declined to 0.3%, from 0.4% in September.
GDP data today will probably show that the Eurozone economy accelerated to 0.3% quarter-on-quarter in Q4, up from 0.2% a quarter earlier. Industrial production came in disappointingly at 0.0% month-to-month in December, but this is not enough to change our forecast in the light of solid data on household spending.
Advance inflation data from Germany and Spain indicate that the Eurozone slipped into deflation last month, piling maximum pressure on Mr. Draghi later this month. Inflation in the euro area's largest economy fell to 0.2% year-over-year in December from 0.6% in November, driven by a 6.6% plunge in the energy component.
The distortions in European fixed income markets have intensified following the initiation of the ECB's sovereign QE program. In the market for sovereigns, German eight-year bond yields are within a touching distance of falling below zero, and this week Switzerland became the first country ever to issue a 10-year bond with negative yields.
The final Eurozone PMIs indicate that the cyclical recovery continued in Q1, but downside risks are rising. The composite index rose marginally to 53.0 in March, from 53.1 in February, below the initial estimate 53.7. Over the quarter as a whole, though, the index fell to 53.2 from 54.1 in Q4, indicating that economic momentum moderated in the first quarter.
Yesterday was a nearly perfect day for investors in the Eurozone. The Q3 GDP data were robust, unemployment fell, and core inflation dipped slightly, vindicating markets' dovish outlook for the ECB.
Deflation officially arrived in the Eurozone yesterday as a 6.3% plunge in energy prices pushed the overall rate of inflation to -0.2% year-over-year in December, down sharply from 0.3% in November.
Yesterday's retail sales report indicates that preliminary Eurozone Q4 GDP data next week are likely to paint an upbeat picture of the economy. Sales rose 0.3% month-to-month in December, equivalent to 2.8% year-over-year. An upward revision to November data means that turnover increased 0.8% quarter-on- quarter, the best since the first quarter of 2005.
Yesterday's final PMI data added to the evidence that the EZ economy was firing on all cylinders at the end of last year. The composite PMI in the euro area rose to an 11-year high of 58.5 in December, from 57.5 in November, in line with the initial estimate.
Eurozone manufacturing selling prices remain under pressure from deflationary headwinds. The PPI index, ex-construction, in the euro area fell 4.2% year-over-year in March, matching February's drop. Weakness in oil prices continues to drive the headline.
Industrial production in the Eurozone was probably unchanged in January equivalent to a 0.2% fall year-over-year. This is slightly below the consensus for a 0.2% rise month-to-month, mainly due to the downside surprises in m/m data in Italy and Germany released previously.
Retail sales data later today will provide further support for the upbeat consumer story in the Eurozone. We expect a third monthly gain in a row, taking retail sales to a 0.8% expansion quarter-on-quarter in Q4, the fastest since the end of 2006. We are seeing clear signs of improvement in the Eurozone economy, and the data are forcing us to recognise upside risks to our Q4 GDP forecast of 0.3-to-0.4%
The four-quarter average growth trend in private investment, excluding dwellings, fell to 0.1% in Q4, and the recent improvement in the PMIs indicates only a modest upturn in Q2. The dearth of investment by non-financial corporates remains one of the biggest threats to long-term growth in the Eurozone.
Manufacturing data for the euro area's major economies point to renewed downside risks for GDP growth, despite the likely tailwind to consumption from low oil prices. November industrial production fell 0.1% and 0.3% month-to-month in Germany and France respectively, indicating that the manufacturing sector remains under pressure.
Inflation in the Eurozone is under pressure from all angles, and data from France and Germany yesterday confirmed that the risk of outright deflation has risen significantly. In Germany, inflation fell to 0.6% yearover- year in November, and in France the CPI rose a paltry 0.3%.
Rumours of Greece stepping back from the brink and accepting its creditors' demands, have taunted markets this week. But the response from the EU, so far, is that talks will not resume before this weekend's referendum. Our base case is a "yes" to the question of whether Greece should accept the proposal from the EU and IMF.
Global economic growth continues to fall short of expectations, and the call for aggressive fiscal stimulus is growing in many countries. This is partly a function of the realisation that monetary policy has been stretched to a breaking point. But it is also because of record low interest rates, which offer governments a golden and cheap opportunity to kickstart the economy. One of the main arguments for stronger fiscal stimulus is based on classic Keynesian macroeconomic theory.
Retail sales data later today will give us the first hard data from the fourth quarter, and the story should be altogether more positive than the still downbeat message from the manufacturing sector.
Brexit talks have hit an impasse over the Irish border. The Republic of Ireland will veto any deal that creates a hard border with Northern Ireland. This means that Northern Ireland must remain in the EU's customs union.
The ECB's corporate bond purchase program began yesterday with purchases concentrated in utilities and telecoms, according to media sources. This is consistent with the structure of the market, and the fact that bond issues by firms in these sectors are the largest and most liquid. But debt issued by consumer staples firms likely also featured prominently.
We can't find much wrong with the EZ Economy...and that is probably worrying
Friday's final EZ inflation report of 2017 sent a dovish signal to bond markets.
The EZ economy will finish 2016 strongly...but political risks continue to simmer
The ECB will keep interest rates on hold later today, and the commitment to monthly asset purchases of €60B--of which €50B will be sovereigns--until September next year will also remain unchanged. Sovereign QE should begin formally next week, but it has already turned bond markets upside down.
Fed Chair Yellen said nothing very new in the core of her Monetary Policy Testimony yesterday, repeating her view that rates likely will have to rise this year but policy will remain accommodative, and that the labor market is less tight than the headline unemployment rate suggests. The upturn in wage growth remains "tentative", in her view, making the next two payroll reports before the September FOMC meeting key to whether the Fed moves then.
Fiscal stimulus, partly financed by a border adjustment tax, and Fed rate hikes, were supposed to be a powerful cocktail driving a stronger dollar in 2017. But so far only the Fed has delivered--we expect another rate hike next month--while Mr. Trump has disappointed in the White House.
Disappointing inflation data remain a critical dark spot in the context of otherwise solid evidence of a firming cyclical recovery. Advance data indicate that inflation was unchanged at a mere 0.2% year-over-year in December, with falling food inflation and a dip in services inflation offsetting easing deflation in energy prices. Headline inflation likely will be volatile in coming months. Base effects will push up the year-over-year rate in energy price inflation further in Q1, but we are wary that continued declines in food inflation could offset this effect.
Advance data indicate that Q1 annualized GDP growth in the U.S. was a trivial 0.2%. And in the U.K., annualized growth is estimated to have slowed to 1.2%, from 2.4% in Q4.
Political certainty is at a premium in the EZ......But Economic data remain resilient
The recent cyclical upturn in the EZ began in the first quarter of 2013. GDP growth has accelerated almost uninterruptedly for the last two years to 1.5% year-over-year in Q3, despite the Greek debt crisis and slower growth in emerging markets. Overall we think the recovery will continue with full-year GDP growth of about 1.6%. But we also think the business cycle is maturing, characterised by stable GDP growth and higher inflation, and we see the economy slowing next year.
In her inaugural Monitor, our Chief Asia Economist Freya Beamish plots three scenarios for the Chinese economy. The best-case scenario is that China makes a smooth transition to consumer-led growth.
EZ survey data were solid in the fourth quarter, pointing to robust GDP growth, but numbers from the real economy have so far not lived up to the rosy expectations. Data yesterday showed that industrial production fell 0.7% month-to-month in November, pushing the year-over-year rate down to 1.1% from a revised 2.0% in October. Italian data today likely will force marginal revisions to the headline next month, but they are unlikely to change the big picture.
Yesterday's ECB bank lending survey suggests that credit conditions remain favourable for the EZ economy. Credit standards eased slightly for business and mortgage lending and were unchanged for consumer credit.
The EZ Economy entered Q4 on a solid footing...But the Political Uncertainty Looms
The latest evidence of firming economic momentum comes from France, where industrial production rose 0.4% month-to-month in January, equivalent to a 0.6% increase year-over-year. Combined with strong consumer spending data in January, this points to a solid first quarter for the French economy.
Dutch Pro-EU Centrists Carry The Day...But We Can't Assume The Same Will Happen In France
The EZ economy powered ahead in 2016...and is so far oblivious to political risks
Yesterday's PMI reports repeated the message of a firm cyclical Eurozone recovery, despite investors' angst over deflation and the underwhelming Q3 GDP data earlier this month. The composite index in the zone rose to a 54-month high of 54.4 in November from 53.9 in October, lifted by strong output and solid new business growth. Our first chart shows the rise in the PMI points to slight upside risks in Q4 to the four quarter trend in real GDP growth of 0.4% per quarter.
The scars from previous economic crises have not healed fully in the Eurozone, and we think the ECB will extend QE today, by six months to Q3 2017. We expect Mr. Draghi to retain his dovish bias in the opening statement, and to repeat the emphasis on downside risks, due to the weak external environment and political fears.
Media reports that Greece and the EU are putting together "contingency plans" for a Greek default--and perhaps even an exit from the Eurozone--highlight how far the parties remain from each other.
Robust demand in the ECB's final TLTRO auction was the main story in EZ financial markets yesterday. Euro area banks--474 in total-- took up €233.5B in the March TLTRO, well above the consensus forecast €110B. To us, this strong demand is a sign that EZ banks are taking advantage of the TLTROs' incredibly generous conditions.
The PMI survey yesterday painted a more upbeat picture on the Eurozone economy than we expected. The composite index rose to 54.1 in June from 53.6 in May, taking the quarterly average to its highest level since Q2 2011.
All the evidence indicates that growth in Eurozone consumers' spending is slowing. We think data today will show that the advance GfK consumer sentiment index in Germany was unchanged at 9.5 in April, but the headline index does not correlate well with spending. The "business expectations" index is better, and while it likely will increase slightly, our first chart shows that it continues to signal a slowdown in consumers' spending growth.
Our new Chief U.K. economist, Samuel Tombs, initiated his coverage yesterday with a sombre, non-consensus, message on the economy. Headwinds from fiscal tightening and net trade will weigh on GDP growth next year, but the BoE will likely have to look through such cyclical weakness, and hike as inflation creeps higher. An intensified drag from net trade in the U.K. will, other things equal, benefit the Eurozone. But a slowdown in U.K. GDP growth still poses a notable risk to euro area headline export growth, especially in the latter part of next year.
Yesterday's detailed Q3 GDP data in the Eurozone confirmed that the economy has gone from strength to strength this year.
ECB growth bears looking for the Fed to move in order to take the sting out of the euro's recent strength were disappointed last week. The FOMC refrained from a hike, referring to the risk that slowing growth in China and emerging markets could "restrain economic activity" and put "downward pressure on inflation in the near term." In doing so, the Fed had an eye on the same global risks as the ECB, highlighting increased fears of deflation risks in China, despite a rosier domestic outlook.
Divergence between central banks and the reach for yield will remain dominant themes for Eurozone fixed income markets next year, but a lot has already been priced in.
Advance PMI data indicate a slow start to the first quarter for the Eurozone economy. The composite index fell to 53.5 in January from 54.3 in December, due to weakness in both services and manufacturing. The correlation between month-to-month changes in the PMI and MSCI EU ex-UK is a decent 0.4, and we can't rule out the ide a that the horrible equity market performance has dented sentiment. The sudden swoon in markets, however, has also led to fears of an imminent recession. But it would be a major overreaction to extrapolate three weeks' worth of price action in equities to the real economy.
China's FX reserves rose to $3119B in November from $3109B in October. But the increase is explained by simultaneous yen, euro and sterling strength, which raises the dollar value of assets denominated in these currencies.
Last week's advance PMI data suggest that economic activity in the Eurozone was stable at the beginning of Q2. The composite EZ PMI fell trivially to 53.0 in April, from 53.1 in March, because a dip in manufacturing offset a small rise in the services index.
Mr. Draghi's pledge in 2012 to do "whatever it takes to preserve the euro," and QE have stymied sovereign debt risk in the euro area. At the same time, the EU's relaxed position over debt sustainability was highlighted earlier this year by the Commission's decision to give France two more years to get its deficit below 3% of GDP. But Moody's downgrade of the French government bond rating last week to Aa2 from Aa1 serves as a gentle reminder to investors of the underlying fundamentals.
The current account surplus in the Eurozone is well on its way to stabilising above 3% of GDP this year. The seasonally adjusted surplus rose to €29.4B in September from a revised €18.7B in August, lifted by a higher trade surplus, thanks to rebounding German exports. The services balance was unchanged at €4.5B in September, while the primary income balance edged higher to €4.8B from €4.0B. The improving external balance has been driven mostly by a surging trade surplus with the U.S. and the U.K., as our first chart shows.
Advance Eurozone consumer sentiment fell disappointingly to -7.1 in July, from -5.6 in June, but it is consistent with a solid trend in retail sales growth. Household consumption in the zone has surged in the last four quarters, and a modest loss of momentum in Q3 and Q4 is a reasonable bet. But we see little risk of a sharp slowdown in the shor t run, and the trend in spending growth should stabilize at an annualised 1.5% this year.
Mr. Macron's victory in France answers two questions for markets, at least in the short run. Firstly, France will stay in the Eurozone, and Mr. Macron will not call a referendum on EU membership. Mr. Macron has come to power with a mandate to strengthen economic integration and co-operation between Eurozone economies.
The Eurozone economy is becoming increasingly service-oriented. The private services sector has contributed just over 50% of gross value added-- GVA -- in the past three years, up from 44% in the seven years before the crash of 2008.
Financial markets and economic survey data have been sending a downbeat message on the Eurozone economy so far this year. The composite PMI has declined to a 12-month low, consumer sentiment has weakened, and national business surveys have also been poor.
Political uncertainty in the Eurozone is the story that won't die. Coalition talks in Germany collapsed yesterday when the centre-right FDP walked out of the negotiations.
The composite PMI in the Eurozone continues to edge slightly lower, falling to 53.4 in May from 53.9 in April. A fall in the services index to 53.3, from 54.1 last month offset a modest increase in manufacturing to 52.3 from 52.0 in April.
The Eurogroup finally agreed on a four-month financing extension for Greece late Friday evening, conditional on Syriza presenting a satisfactory list of reforms later today. At the press conference, Eurogroup President Dijsselboem emphasized that commitments always come before money.
Investor sentiment in the Eurozone showed further signs of recovery yesterday. The ZEW expectations index rose strongly to 48.4 in January from 34.9 in December, and the leap since the trough in October ranks among the strongest rebounds ever recorded in the index.
The performance of Italy's economy in the first half of 2017 proves that the strengthening euro area recovery is a tide lifting all the r egion's boats.
We think this week's main economic surveys in the Eurozone will take a step back following a steady rise since the end of Q3. Today's composite PMI in the Eurozone likely slipped to 54.0 in February, from 54.4 in January, mainly due to a dip in the manufacturing component. Even if we're right about slightly weaker survey data in February, though, it is unlikely to change the story of a stable and solid cyclical expansion in the EZ.
Core inflation--a long lagging indicator in the euro area-- will rise next year, in response to surging consumers' spending. Our first chart shows that services inflation likely will be a key theme in this story. Even allowing for a structural drag on inflation due to high unemployment outside Germany, cyclical risks to services inflation are tilted firmly to the upside.
German industrial production data were presented by Bloomberg News as signs that the recovery is "gathering momentum", but it is slightly premature to make that call. Narrow money growth is currently sending a strong signal of higher GDP growth this year in the euro area, but the message from the manufacturing sector is still one of stabilisation rather than acceleration.
Friday's July PMI reports presented investors with a rather confusing story. The composite PMI in the Eurozone fell trivially to 52.9 in July, from 53.1 in June, despite rising PMIs in Germany and France. The final data on 3 August will give the full story, but Markit noted that private sector growth outside the core slowed to its weakest pace since December 2014.
Bond market volatility and political turmoil in Greece have been the key drivers of an abysmal second quarter for Eurozone equities. Recent panic in Chinese markets has further increased the pressure, adding to the wall of worry for investors. A correction in stocks is not alarming, though, following the surge in Q1 from the lows in October. The total return-- year-to-date in euros--for the benchmark MSCI EU ex-UK index remains a respectable 11.4%.
Yesterday's advance consumer sentiment index in the Eurozone confirmed the upside risks for consumers' spending in Q4. The headline index rose to a 17- year high of +0.1 in November, from -1.0 in October.
Discussion about whether the U.K. would be better off voting to leave the European Union in the forthcoming referendum is rarely out of the press, raising the question of whether simply holding the national vote could damage the economy even if the U.K. votes for the status quo in the end.
We have warned that the ECB' decision to add corporate bonds to QE would lead to unprecedented market distortions. Evidence of this is now abundantly clear. The central bank has bought €82B-worth of corporate bonds in the past 11 months, and now holds more than 6% of the market. Assuming the central bank continues its purchases until the middle of next year, it will end up owning 13%-to-14% of the whole Eurozone corporate bond market.
One of the questions we have been asked recently is when inflation in the euro area will trough this year. This is difficult to answer without a look at the structural drivers of price pressures in Europe.
Debt issuance by Eurozone non-financial firms is soaring, consistent with the ECB's hope that adding private debt to QE would boost supply. Our first chart shows that the three-month sum of net debt sold in the euro area jumped to a new record of €60.3B in May. A short-term decline in issuance is a good bet after the initial euphoria in firms' treasury departments.
Data yesterday showed that consumers in the euro area increased their spending in February, following recent weakness. Retail sales rose 0.7% month-to-month in February, reversing the cumulative 0.4% decline since November. The year-over-year rate was pushed higher to 1.8% from an upwardly revised 1.5% in January.
Eurozone manufacturing boosted GDP growth in the first half of the year, and survey data suggest that momentum will be maintained in Q3.
The Eurozone enjoyed a strong start to 2017. Yesterday's advance data showed that real GDP rose 0.5% quarter-on-quarter in Q1, a similar pace to Q4, which was revised up by 0.1 percentage points. The year-over-year rate dipped to 1.7%, from an upwardly revised 1.8% in Q4.
Survey data point to a very strong headline, 0.6%-to-0.7% quarter-on-quarter, in today's Q1 advance Eurozone GDP report. But the hard data have been less ebullient than the surveys. A GDP regression using retail sales, industrial production and construction points to a more modest 0.4% increase, implying a slowdown from the upwardly-revised 0.5% gain in Q4.
Eurozone September CPI data this week will show that inflation pressures remain weak, appearing to support the ECB's focus on downside risks. We think Eurozone inflation--data released Wednesday-- rose slightly to 0.2% year-over-year in September from 0.1% in August, as core inflation edged higher, offsetting weak energy prices. Looking ahead, structural inflation pressures will keep inflation well below the central bank's 2% target for a considerable period.
The Eurozone construction sector ground to a halt at the start of 2017. Data on Friday showed that output plunged 2.3% month-to-month in January, pushing the year-over-year rate down to -6.0%, from a revised +3.0% in December. The weakness was broad-based across the major economies, but it was concentrated in France and Spain where output fell by 3.5% and 3.8%, respectively.
Money supply dynamics in the Eurozone were broadly stable last month. M3 rose 5.0% year-over-year in May, accelerating slightly from a 4.9% increase in April, in line with the trend since the middle of 2015.
Today's Eurozone data schedule is very hectic, but attention likely will focus on advance Q2 GDP data. France, Austria and Spain will report advance data separately ahead of the EZ aggregate estimate, which is released 11.00 CET. This report will include a confidential number from Germany.
The Eurozone is on the brink of its first exit this week after the ECB refused to offer incremental emergency liquidity to Greek banks, forcing the start of bank holiday through July 7--two days after next weekend's referendum--and beginning today. We have no doubt that if the banks were to open, they would soon be bust; bank runs have a habit of accelerating beyond the point of no return very quickly.
The prospect of a Greek parliamentary election on January 25th, following Prime Minister Samaras' failure to secure support for his presidential candidate, weighed on Eurozone assets over the holidays. The looming political chaos in Greece will increase market volatility in the first quarter, but it is too early to panic.
Consumer sentiment data yesterday from the major economies were mixed, signalling that support to Eurozone GDP growth from surging German household consumption is waning. The key "business outlook" index--which correlates best with spending--plunged to a 30-month low in October, while the advance GfK sentiment index dipped to 9.4 in November from 9.6 in October. We see little signs in retail sales data of slowing momentum, and also think consumers' spending rebounded in Q3. But our first chart shows that the fall in the GfK index implies clear downside risks in coming quarters.
The Prime Minister will invoke Article 50 today, marking the end of the beginning of the U.K.'s departure from the EU. The move likely will not move markets, as it has been all but certain since MPs backed the Government's European Union Bill on February 1.
Survey data signal that Eurozone manufacturing retained momentum at the start of Q4. Yesterday's final PMI reports showed that the EZ manufacturing index rose to 58.5 in October from 58.1 in September, trivially below the first estimate.
Manufacturing in the Eurozone remained a strong driver of GDP growth in the third quarter. The headline EZ manufacturing PMI rose to 58.1 in September, from 57.4 in August, only a tenth below the initial estimate 58.2.
The dovish message from the ECB going into today's final meeting of the year has intensified. Mr. Draghi's comments last month, at the European Banking Congress in Frankfurt, point to an increased worry on low core inflation.
Advance data from Germany and Spain indicate that Eurozone inflation rebounded in October. We think inflation rose to 0.2% year-over-year from -0.2%, and German data suggest the main boost will come from both core and food inflation. Inflation in Germany rose to 0.3% year-over-year from 0.0% in September, lifted by an increase in inflation of leisure and entertainment, hotels and durable goods. Food inflation also rose to 1.6% from 1.1% in September, due to surging prices for fresh fruit and vegetables.
Today's Sentix survey of Eurozone investor sentiment likely will remain downbeat. We think the headline index rose only trivially, to 6.0 in April from 5.5 in March, and that the expectations index was unchanged at 2.8. Weakness in equities due to global growth fears and negative earnings revisions likely is the key driver of below-par investor sentiment.
Renewed weakness in food and energy prices weighed on Eurozone inflation in July, but core inflation probably rose slightly. German inflation fell to 0.2% year-over-year in July, down from 0.3% in June. The hit came entirely from falling energy and food inflation, though, with the jump in services inflation suggesting rising core inflation.
Yesterday's data kicked off the release of Eurozone Q3 growth numbers with a robust Spanish headline. Real GDP in Spain rose 0.8% quarter-on-quarter, slowing slightly from 0.9% in Q2, and le aving the year-over-year rate unchanged at 3.1%.
Advance CPI data yesterday continue to indicate that inflation pressures remain depressed in the Eurozone's largest economy, for now. Inflation in Germany rose slightly in May, but only to 0.1% year-over-year, from -0.1% in April. The downward pressure on the headline from the crash in oil prices remains significant. Energy prices fell 7.9% year-over-year, slowing slightly from the 8.5% drop in the year to April.
The upside to manufacturing survey data in the Eurozone appears endless.
Leaders of the major Eurozone economies were in no mood to give concessions as they met with outgoing U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron this week for the first time since the referendum. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that she sees "no way back from the Brexit vote." This followed comments that the U.K. couldn't be expected to "cherry-pick" the EU rules that it would like to follow after a new deal.
Yesterday's PMI data confirmed that the EZ manufacturing sector is in rude health. The manufacturing PMI in the euro area rose to a cyclical high of 57.4 in June, from 57.0 in May, slightly above the first estimate. New orders and output growth are robust, pushing work backlogs higher and helping to sustain employment growth.
U.K. manufacturers are benefiting from rapid growth in the Eurozone, but increasingly they are being held back by weak domestic demand.
Survey and money supply data remain consistent with an improving Eurozone economy. Yesterday's EC sentiment index fell to 103.7 in April, from 103.9 in March, due to weakness in France and Germany, but it is consistent with GDP growth of about 0.4% quarter-on-quarter in Q2.
Sterling strengthened last week to its highest tradeweighted level since mid-May, amid hopes that the U.K. government will concede more ground to ensure that the European Council deems, at its December 14 meeting, that "sufficient progress" has been made in Brexit talks for trade discussions to begin
The business cycle upturn in the Eurozone likely will remain resilient in the first half of 2017. Friday's money supply data showed that headline M3 growth increased to 5.0% in December, from 4.9% in November.
Yesterday's advance CPI report in the Eurozone showed that inflation pressures are rising rapidly. Inflation rose to 1.1% year-over-year in December, from 0.6% in November. Surging energy inflation was the key driver, and this component likely will continue to rise in the next few months. Core inflation, however, stayed subdued, rising only slightly to 0.9%, from 0.8% in November.
Volatility in commodities and emerging markets has intensified since the beginning of July, with the stock market drama in China taking centre stage. The bubble in Chinese equities inflated without much ado elsewhere, and can probably deflate in isolation too. But the accelerating economic slowdown in EM is becoming an issue for policy makers in the Eurozone.
Yesterday's economic data point to a sea of calm in the Eurozone economy. The composite PMI was unchanged at 53.1 in June, a slight upward revision from the initial estimate, 52.8. The index suggests real GDP growth was stable at 1.5%-to-1.6% year-overyear in Q2, though the quarter-on-quarter rate likely slowed markedly, following the jump in Q1.
Yesterday's final May PMI data in the Eurozone confirmed the strength of the cyclical upturn. The composite PMI was unchanged at 56.8, in line with the initial estimate.
Friday's PMI data in the Eurozone added to the evidence that GDP growth is slowing, after a cyclical peak last year. The composite PMI in the euro area slipped to a 21-month low of 52.6 in September, from 52.9 in August.
Monitoring bond markets in the Eurozone has been like watching paint dry this year. Yields across fixed income markets in the euro area were already low going into QE, but they have been absolutely crushed as asset purchases began in February.
The final EZ PMI data for November yesterday confirmed that the composite index in the Eurozone rose to an 11-month high of 53.9, from 53.3 in October. The key driver was an improvement in services, boosted by stronger data in all the major economies. Manufacturing activity also improved, though, and the details showed that new business growth was robust in both sectors.
Sterling has rallied against both the dollar and the euro over the last week on the assumption that interventions by the U.K. Treasury and President Obama in the Brexit debate have shifted public opinion towards remaining in the E.U.
The PMI survey points to a slight loss of momentum in Eurozone growth towards the end of Q3. The composite index fell to 53.6 in September from 54.3 in August, trivially lower than the initial estimate of 53.9. This is not enough to move the needle on the survey's signal for Q3 GDP growth, though; our first chart shows it pointing to stable growth of 0.4% quarter-on-quarter.
The Eurozone PMIs stumbled at the end of Q2. The composite index slipped to a five-month low of 55.7 in June, from 56.8 in May, constrained by a fall in the services index. This offset a marginal rise in the manufacturing index to a new cyclical high. The dip in the headline does not alter the survey's upbeat short- term outlook for the economy.
Yesterday's advance PMI reports in the euro area signal that economic momentum slowed slightly at the start of Q4.
The external environment was relatively benign for China in July. The euro and yen appreciated as markets began to question how long policy can remain on their current emergency settings.
PMI data in the Eurozone rebounded convincingly in October, as the composite index rose to a 10-month high of 53.7, from 52.6 in September. The gain fully reversed the weakness at the end of Q3.
Yesterday's German IFO survey suggests that economic momentum in the Eurozone's largest country remained modest at the start of Q2. The headline business climate index fell trivially to 106.6 in April, from 106.7 in March, lower than the consensus expectation of an increase to 107.2.
Manufacturing activity in Germany rebounded at the start of the fourth quarter, following a miserable Q3. New orders jumped 1.8% month-to-month in October, lifted by increases in consumer and capital goods orders, both domestic and export. But the year-over-year rate fell to -1.4%, from a revised -0.7% in September, due to unfavorable base effects, and the three-month trend remained below zero. Our first chart shows that non-Eurozone export orders are the key drag, with export orders to other euro area economies doing significantly better.
Consumers' spending in the Eurozone stalled at the start of Q4. Retail sales slid 1.1% month-to-month in October, pushing the year-over-year rate down to a four-year low of 0.4%, from an upwardly-revised 4.0% jump in September.
The uncertainty over the new U.S. administration's economic policies new is clouding the outlook for the Eurozone economy. The combination of loose fiscal policy and tight monetary policy in the U.S. should be positive for the euro area economy, in theory. It points to accelerating U.S. growth--at least in the near term--wider interest rate differentials and a stronger dollar. In a " traditional" global macroeconomic model, this policy mix would lead to a wider U.S. trade deficit, boosting Eurozone exports.
Factory orders in Germany probably jumped in September, following a string of losses in the beginning of Q3. We think new orders rose 1.0% month-to-month, pushing the year-over-year rate slightly lower, to 1.8% from 2.0% in August. A rebound in non- Eurozone export orders likely will be the key driver of the monthly gain, following a 14.8% cumulative plunge in the previous two months. The rise will be concentrated in capital and consumer goods, and should be enough to offset a fall in export orders within the euro area. Our forecast is consistent with new orders falling 2.0% quarter-on-quarter in Q3, partly reversing the 3.0% surge in the second quarter, and raising downside risks for production in Q4.
Reports yesterday indicated that a deal has finally been struck between the European Commission and the Italian government to start dealing with bad loans in the banking system. The initial details suggest the government will be allowed to guarantee senior tranches on non-performing loans, supposedly making them easier to sell to private investors. In order to avoid burdening government finances as part of the sales--not allowed under the new banking union rules--the idea is to price the guarantees based on the credit risk of similar loans.
Mr. Draghi's speech yesterday in Portugal, at the ECB forum on Central Banking, pushed the euro and EZ government bond yields higher. The markets' hawkish interpretation was linked to the president's comment that "The threat of deflation is gone and reflationary forces are at play."
Monetary conditions in the Eurozone continue to send a bullish message on GDP growth, and indicate an ongoing, but slow, improvement in credit growth. Broad money growth--M3--was unchanged at 4.9% year-over-year in September, after a trivial 0.1% upward revision of last month's data. The increase continues to be driven by surging narrow money rising 11.7% in September from 11.5% in August, boosted by overnight deposit growth offsetting a slight decline in currency in circulation.
Last week's QE announcement has made Eurozone inflation prints less important for investors, but the market will still be watching for signs of a turning point in benchmark bond yields. The data are unlikely to challenge bond holders in the short run, however, as the Eurozone probably slipped deeper into deflation in January.
Yesterday's money supply data in the Eurozone were solid across the board. Growth in headline M3 rose to 5.1% year-over-year in August, up from a 4.9% increase in July. A rebound in narrow money growth was the key driver of the gain, with seasonally- and calendar-adjusted M1 rising 8.9% year-over-year, up from July's 8.4%.
The ECB will receive most of the credit for the recent gain in stock markets, but the main leading indicator for the stock market, excess liquidity, was already turning up late last year. With the MSCI EU ex-UK up 21%, in euro terms, since October, a lot is already priced in, but in the medium term the outlook is upbeat, and we look for further gains this year.
Data today will likely show that consumer sentiment in the Eurozone remains firm. In Germany, we expect a slight dip in the advance headline GFK confidence index to 9.8 in June, from an all-time high of 10.1 in May.
The July Eurozone PMI survey echoed the message from consumer sentiment earlier of a mild dip in momentum going into Q3. The composite PMI in the euro area fell to 53.7, from 54.2 in June due mainly to a fall in the services index. Companies' own expectations for future business fell in the core, but the survey was conducted soon after the Greek referendum. Markit claims this didn't depress the data, but we are on alert for revisions to the headline and expectations next week, or a rebound next month.
In principle, predicting the interest rate policies of an inflation-targeting central bank should be simple. Our first chart shows a standard Taylor Rule rate for the Eurozone based on the ECB's inflation target of 2%, the long-run average unemployment rate and a long run "equilibrium interest rate" of 1.5%. This framework historically has been a decent guide to ECB policy.
The strengthening recovery in the euro area is proving to be a poisoned chalice for some of the region's most vulnerable banks. Earlier this month-- see our Monitor of June 8--Spain's Banco Populare was acquired by Banco Santander, and the bank's equity and junior credit holders were bailed-in as part of the deal.
The ECB's statement following the panic on Friday was brief and offered few details. The central bank said that it is closely monitoring markets, and that it is ready to provide additional liquidity in both euros and foreign currency, if needed. It also said that it is in close coordination with other central banks.
Money supply data continue to support the continuation of cyclical recovery in the Eurozone. M3 growth accelerated to 4.0% year-over-year in February from a revised 3.7% in January. Revisions, however, mean that momentum in the beginning of the year was not as solid as we thought.
Evidence is mounting that the cyclical recovery in the Eurozone accelerated further in the first quarter. The Composite PMI in the euro area rose to 54.1 in March, up from 53.3 in February, taking the quarterly average to 53.3, its highest level since the second quarter of 2011. Combined with latest available retail sales and industrial production data, this is consistent with real GDP growth in the euro area accelerating to about 0.4-to-0.5% quarter-on quarter in the first quarter, from 0.3% in Q4.
Eurozone PMI data yesterday presented investors with a confusing message. The composite index fell marginally to 52.9 in May, from 53.0 in April, despite separate data that showed that the composite PMIs rose in both Germany and France. Markit said that weakness outside the core was the key driver, but we have to wait for the final data to see the full story.
Eurozone GDP data last Friday suggest the cyclical recovery continued at the end of last year. Real GDP in euro area rose 0.3% quarter-on-quarter in Q4, the same as in Q3, lifted by growth in all the major economies. This was in line with the consensus forecast, but noticeably higher than implied by monthly industrial production and retail sales data.
The equity market this year has been a story of two halves. Hopes of a sustainable economic recovery pushed the benchmark Eurozone equity index to an 7.5% increase in the first six months of the year.
Real GDP in the Eurozone rose 0.4% quarter-on-quarter in Q1, in line with the consensus, but slightly below our expectation for a 0.5% increase. We don't get much detail from the country-specific advance estimates but all evidence indicates that the technical hit from net trade was much larger than we expected.
Based on key economic indicators, the Eurozone economy is doing splendidly, relative to its performance in recent years. Real GDP has been growing at 1.6%-to-1.7% year-over-year since the first quarter of last year, bank credit has expanded, and the unemployment rate is declining.
Investors face a busy EZ calendar today, but the second estimate of Q3 GDP, and the advance GDP data in Germany, likely will receive most attention. Yesterday's industrial production report in the Eurozone was soft, but it won't force a downward GDP revision, as we had feared.
Momentum in new EZ car sales improved slightly in the middle of Q3. New registrations in the euro area rose 6.8% year-over-year in August, accelerating marginally from a 5.3% increase in July.
Industrial production data yesterday indicate manufacturers in the Eurozone enjoyed a decent start to Q3, thanks to strength in Germany, Italy and Spain, which offset weakness in France. Production ex-construction rose 0.6% month-to-month in July, boosted in part by a 3% jump in energy output. If production is unchanged in August and September, output will rise 0.3% quarter-on-quarter in Q3, but this estimate is uncertain, and we look for an increase of about 0.4%-to-0.5%.
The benchmark MSCI EU ex-UK equity index was down a startling 17% year-over-year at the end of February. A disappointing policy package from the ECB in December initially put Eurozone equities on the back foot, and the awful start to the year for global risk assets has since piled on the misery.
Today's employment report in the euro area should extend the run of positive labour market data. We think employment rose 1.4% year-over-year in Q1, accelerating marginally from a 1.2% increase in Q4.
Activity in the Eurozone industrial sector cooled at the end of the first quarter. Manufacturing production declined 0.8% month-to-month in March, pushing the year-over-year rate down to 0.2% from a revised 1.0% in February. Over Q1 as a whole, though, the story was positive.
Industrial production in the Eurozone fell a disappointing 0.1% month-on-month in January, driven by low output in Italy and Germany, as well as a large drop in Finland. But December production was revised up to 0.3% month-to-month, from the initially estimated 0.0%.
The draft Eurogroup document circulated Sunday evening indicates that European leaders seemingly are willing to offer Greece a new bailout. But it is conditional on passing required legislation reforming pensions and taxes on Wednesday. A "time-out" from the Eurozone, was discussed as a bizarre alternative, but this would be the equivalent of Grexit and default.
Industrial production data yesterday confirmed downside risks to today's GDP data in the Eurozone. Output fell 0.3% month-to-month in September, pushing the year-over-year rate down to 1.7% from a revised 2.2% in August. Weakness in Germany was the main culprit, amid stronger data in the other major economies. A GDP estimate based on available data for industrial production and retail sales point to a quarterly growth rate of 0.4% quarter-on-quarter, but we think growth was rather lower, just 0.2%, due to a drag from net trade.
Macroeconomic data in the euro area were mixed in our absence.
Data yesterday showed that industrial production in the Eurozone stumbled in May. Production fell 1.2% month-to-month, driven by weakness in all major economies and falling output in all sub-industries. The poor headline follows an upwardly revised 1.4% jump in April, which means that production rose marginally in the first two months of the second quarter.
Households remain the key driver of the cyclical recovery in the Eurozone. We have seen, so far, little sign that investment will be able convincingly to take over the baton if momentum in consumers' spending slows. The average rate of growth of investment since 2013 has been 0.5%, about two-thirds of the pace seen in previous cyclical upturns. Weakness in construction--about 50% of total euro area investment--has been one of the key factors behind of the under performance.
Political risks have returned to the Eurozone with the decision by Greek Prime Minister Samaras to initiate the election of a president, raising the risk of a Greek parliamentary election early next year.
Normal service was resumed in the euro area with Friday's GDP reports pointing to solid growth in Germany amid weakness in Italy and France. Real GDP in the Eurozone grew 0.3% quarter-on-quarter in the final three months of last year, up from 0.2% in Q3.
Net exports in the euro area likely rebounded in Q4. The headline EZ trade surplus rose to €22.7B in November from €19.7B in October. Exports jumped 3.3% month-to-month, primarily as a result of strong data in Germany and France, offsetting a 1.8% rise in imports. Over Q4 as a whole, we are confident that net exports gave a slight boost to eurozone GDP growth, adding 0.1 percentage points to quarter-on-quarter growth.
EZ households' demand for new cars was off to a strong start in 2017. Car registrations in the euro area jumped 10.9% year-over-year in January, accelerating from a 2.1% rise in December. We have to discount the headline level of sales by about a fifth to account for dealers' own registrations. Even with this provision, though, the January report was solid. Growth rebounded in France and Germany, and a 27.1% surge in Dutch car registrations also lifted the headline. We think car registrations will rise about 1.5% quarter-onquarter in Q1, rebounding from a weak Q4. But this does not change the story of downside risks to private spending.
The ECB's negative interest rate policy--NIRP--has come under the spotlight following the violent selloff in Eurozone bank equities. Mr. Draghi reassured markets and the EU parliament earlier this week that new regulation, stronger capital buffers, and common recognition of non-performing loans have made Eurozone banks stronger.
Yesterday's ECB press conference confirmed our view that Mr. Draghi is the periphery's friend, not enemy. Crucially, the central bank agreed to increase emergency liquidity assistance--ELA--to Greek banks by €900M. This is consistent tent with the agreement by the Eurogroup to give Greece €7B bridge financing, and shows the ECB is ready to act on the back of only a temporary truce between Greece and the EU. The increase in ELA is modest, and we doubt a painful restructuring of the banking system can be avoided. But with Greek bond yields falling, the available pool of collateral will go up, allowing the central bank to provide further relief in coming weeks.
Final German inflation data for May confirm that price pressures are gradually recovering in the Eurozone. Inflation rose to 0.7% in May, up from 0.5% in April, in line with the initial estimate. Headline inflation continues to move higher, a trend which will continue in the second half of the year as base effects push up energy inflation.
Yesterday's CPI report in the Eurozone confirmed that inflation pressures remain subdued, even as GDP growth is accelerating.
Data today likely will show that the seasonally adjusted trade surplus in the Eurozone jumped to €23.0B in March, from €20.2B in February. The headline was boosted, though, by sharp month-to-month falls in German and French imports, partly due to the early Easter.
Eurozone inflation continued its slow rebound last month. Final CPI data showed that inflation rose marginally to 0.2% in November from 0.1% in October, a bit higher than the initial estimate of 0.1%. The upward revision was due to marginally higher services inflation at 1.2%, compared to the initial 1.1% estimate. Non-energy goods inflation eased slightly to 0.5% from 0.6% last month. We have received push-back on our call for higher inflation next year, but core inflation is a lagging indicator, and it can rise independently of the story told by GDP or survey data. Core inflation tends to peak during recessions, and only starts falling later as prices are adjusted downwards, with a lag, to the cyclical downturn.
Bond markets in the euro area have been a calm sea recently relative to the turmoil in equities, credit and commodities. Following the initial surge in yields at the end of second quarter, 10-year benchmark rates have meandered in a tight range, recently settling towards the lower end, at 0.5%. Our outlook for the economy and inflation tells us this is to o low, even allowing for the impact of QE.
Final May CPI data in the Eurozone today likely will confirm that inflation pressures edged marginally higher last month. We think inflation increased to -0.1% year-over-year, from -0.2% in April, as a result of slightly higher services inflation, and a reduced drag from falling energy prices.
Net exports should come roaring back as a driver of Eurozone GDP growth in the second quarter. The euro area trade surplus leapt to €24.3B in April, a new all-time high, up from a revised €19.9B in March. A 1.7% month-to-month fall in imports--mean-reversion from a 3.9% increase in March--was a big contributor to the higher surplus.
Consumers' spending has staged an impressive recovery in the Eurozone, and remains the key driver of accelerating GDP growth. Outside Germany, however, households have struggled, and are still faced with tight credit conditions.
The Eurozone labour market is slowly healing following two severe recessions since 2008. Unemployment fell to a two-year low of 10.3% in January, and yesterday's quarterly labour force survey was upbeat. Fourth quarter employment rose 1.2% year-over-year, up from 1.1% in Q3, pushing total EZ employment to a new post-crisis high of 152 million.
Yesterday's GDP reports confirmed that growth was stable at 0.3% quarter-on-quarter in the Eurozone, leaving the year-over-year rate unchanged at 1.5%. Rebounding growth outside Germany, which has been a main driver of EZ GDP growth in this cycle, was the key story.
Eurozone GDP data on Friday were better than we expected, but were still soft compared to upbeat market expectations. Real GDP rose 0.3% quarter-onquarter in the third quarter, down slightly from 0.4% in Q2, and lower than the consensus forecast for another 0.4% gain. These data are not a blank check for ECB doves, but they probably are enough to push through further easing in December. This looks odd given growth in the last four quarters of an annualised 1.6%--the strongest since 2011--and probably slightly above the long-run growth rate.
The EZ government bond market has been in a holding pattern for most of 2017. The euro area 10- year yield--German and French benchmark--is little changed from a year ago, though it is at the lower end of its range.
The euro's spectacular rise against the pound has been the key story in European FX markets recently. But the trade-weighted euro, however, is up "only" 6% year-to-date, as a result of the relatively stable EURUSD.
A looming rate lift-off at the Fed, chaos in Greece, and a renewed rout in commodities have given credit markets plenty to worry about this year. The Bloomberg global high yield index is just about holding on to a 0.7% gain year-to-date, but down 2.5% since the middle of May. The picture carries over to the euro area where the sell-off is worse than during the taper tantrum in 2013.
Yesterday's final February PMI data were slightly stronger than expected, due to upbeat services data. The composite PMI in the Eurozone fell to 53.0, a bit above the initial 52.7 estimate, from 53.6 in January. The PMI likely will dip slightly in Q1 on average, compared to Q4, but it continues to indicate stable GDP growth of about 0.3%-to-0.4% quarter-on-quarter.
Data released over the holidays suggest that money supply dynamics in the Eurozone remain solid, but also that growth is no longer accelerating. M3 growth slipped to 5.1% year-over-year in November from 5.3% in October, partly due to a sharp monthly fall in the stock of repurchase agreements. Momentum in narrow money, however, also dipped. M1 growth slowed to 11.2% year-over-year from 11.8% in October, mainly due to a modest fall in overnight deposit growth.
Strong real M1 growth suggests the cyclical recovery is in good shape. But recent economic data indicate GDP growth slowed in Q4, and survey evidence deteriorated in January. This slightly downbeat message, however, is a far cry from the horror story told by financial markets. The recent collapse in stock-to-bond returns extends the decline which began in Q2 last year, signalling the Eurozone is on the brink of recession.
This is the final report before your Eurozone correspondent dials down for the summer, and heads for the beach. Advance Q2 GDP data next week is the key release while we are away, with the latest Bloomberg consensus--published July 20th--looking for a 0.4% increase quarter-on-quarter. Everything we look at suggests the consensus is right on this one, with risks tilted to the upside due to strong net exports in Germany.
The relatively upbeat message from a plethora of Eurozone data this week remains firmly sidelined by chaos in equity and credit markets. EZ Equities struggled towards the end of last year in the aftermath of the disappointing ECB stimulus package, and now, renewed weakness in oil prices and further Chinese currency devaluation have added pressure, by refocusing attention on already weak areas in the global economy.
Increased volatility has given equity investors a torrid start to the year, but economic reports have been strong, and yesterday's PMIs were no exception. The composite index in the Eurozone rose marginally to 54.3 in December from 54.2 in November, slightly higher than the initial estimate of 54.0. This is consistent with a continuing cyclical recovery, and real GDP growth of 0.4%-to-0.5% in Q4, modestly higher than the 0.3% rise in the third quarter.
Data yesterday suggest Eurozone consumers' spending rebounded towards the end of Q4. Retail sales rose 0.3% month-to-month in December, pushing the year-over-year rate down to 1.4%, from a revised 1.6% in November. A +0.3 percentage point net revision to the month-to-month data added to the optimism, but was not enough to prevent a slowdown over the quarter as a whole.
Eurozone manufacturing is showing signs of stabilisation. Final PMI data showed the headline gauge falling trivially to 52.4 in July from 52.5 in June, slightly above the initial estimate of 52.2. New orders slowed, though, with companies reporting weakness in export business amid firm domestic demand.
Economic theory tells us that government spending should be counter-cyclical, but recent experience in the Eurozone tells a slightly different story. The contribution to GDP growth from government spending rose during the boom from 2004 to 2007, and remained expansionary as the economy fell off the cliff in 2008. As the economy slowed again following the initial recovery, the sovereign debt crisis hit, driving a severe pro-cyclical fiscal hit to the economy.
The Eurozone is back in headline deflation, increasing the pressure on the ECB to deliver further easing when it meets next week. Inflation fell to -0.2% in February, from +0.3% in January, depressed by energy and food prices.
Investors were presented with a barrage of mixed EZ economic data on Friday, fighting for attention amid markets celebrating the arrival of negative interest rates in Japan. Advance Eurozone CPI data gave some respite to the ECB, with inflation rising to 0.4% year-over-year in January from 0.2% in December.
Unemployment in the Eurozone fell to a 22-month low of 10.3% in January, from 10.4% in December, helped by a continued fall in Spain but underpinned by low unemployment in Germany.
Inflation data in the Eurozone came in broadly as we expected. Weakness in food and energy prices dampened the headline, but core inflation rose. Inflation was unchanged at 0.2% year-over-year in July, with core inflation rising to 1.0% year-over-year, a 15-month high, up from 0.8% in June.
Distinguishing between the structural and cyclical story is crucial to understanding the inflation picture in the Eurozone. Nobel laureate Paul Krugman recently lamented--New York Times, March 1st--that the Eurozone economy appears to be stalling. We doubt the outlook for GDP growth this year is that dire.
Data yesterday showed that the downward trend in Eurozone unemployment continued towards the end of last year. The unemployment rate fell to 10.4% in December from 10.5% in November, extending an almost uninterrupted decline which began in the first quarter of 2013.
Inflation in the euro area edged higher in November, but our prediction of a rebound in the core proved to be wrong. Headline inflation increased to 1.5% in November, from 1.4% in October.
Yesterday was a good day for headline EZ economic data. GDP growth accelerated, inflation rose and unemployment fell further. Advance Q4 data showed that real GDP in the Eurozone rose 0.5% quarter-on-quarter in Q4, marginally faster than the upwardly revised 0.4% in Q3. Full-year growth in 2016 slowed slightly to 1.7% from 2.0% in 2015.
Workers in the euro area remain scarred by the zone's repeated crises, but the strengthening cyclical recovery is slowly starting to spread to the labour market. The unemployment rate fell to a three-year low of 10.9% in July, and employment has edged higher after hitting a low in the middle of 2013. Germany's outperformance is a key story, with employment increasing uninterruptedly since 2009, and the unemployment rate declining to an all-time low of 6.4%. Among the other major economies, the unemployment rate in Spain and Italy remains higher than in France. But employment in Spain has outperformed in the cyclical recovery since 2013.
The euro has been one of the main "beneficiaries" of the pound's relentless decline, which took on ridiculous dimensions as the GBP crashed almost 10% in the early hours of Friday. EURGBP briefly touched 0.94, before settling at 0.9, up just shy of 30% since November.
The last few weeks' action in Eurozone financial markets has shown investors that the QE trade is not a one-way street. Higher short-rates could force the ECB to take preventive measures, but we don't think the central bank will be worried about rising long rates unless they shoot much higher.
The German trade data on Friday completed a poor week for economic reports in the Eurozone's largest economy. The seasonally adjusted trade surplus fell to €22.1B in May, from €24.1B in April, mainly due to a 1.8% month-to-month fall in exports. Imports, on the other hand, were little changed.
Two years ago markets believed that the institutional setup of the Eurozone would be a straitjacket on the ECB, preventing QE. Aggressive policy actions since then have proven this hypothesis wrong. But inflation remains low and sentiment data weakened ominously in the first quarter.
Eurozone capital markets have been split across the main asset classes this year. Equity investors have had a nightmare. The MSCI EU ex-UK index is down 10.6% year-to-date, a remarkably poor performance given additional QE from the ECB and stable GDP growth. Corporate bonds, on the other hand, are sizzling.
Today's Q4 GDP report in the Eurozone likely will show that growth slowed again at the end of last year. We think GDP growth dipped to 0.2% quarter-on-quarter in Q4, down from 0.3% in Q3, and risks to our forecast are firmly tilted to the downside. The initial release does not contain details, but we think a slowdown in consumers' spending and a drag from net exports were the main drivers of the softening.
Another weekend, another summit, but the sense of urgency is acute this time. Greece, and the rest of the world, will likely have to prepare for Grexit if Mr. Tsipras' final proposal is rebuffed by the EU. We expect a deal, with Greece to remain in the Eurozone, but visibility is limited and uncertainty is high.
We don't know how Europe will look on Monday. If European officials are to be believed, Greece will either have agreed to bail-out terms to keep it inside the Eurozone, or it will be on its way out. "Deadlines" have come and gone for Greece, but this time really is different, because the banks are bust without further support from the ECB, and that will not be forthcoming without a bail-out deal.
Yesterday's advance EZ CPI report bolstered the ECB doves' case for only marginal adjustments to the language on forward guidance at next week's meeting. Inflation in the euro area fell to 1.4% in May, from 1.9% in April, constrained by almost all the key components.
The Eurozone escaped deflation last month, and we doubt it will return in this business cycle. Inflation rose to 0.1% year-over-year in June, up from -0.1% in May; it was lifted chiefly by the gradual recovery in oil and other global commodity prices. Energy prices fell 6.5% in June, up from a 8.4% fall in May, and we think the recovery will accelerate in coming months.
Money supply data in the euro area disappointed yesterday. Growth in M3 fell to 4.6% year-over-year in April, from 5.0% in March, due to an accelerated fall in the pace of narrow money growth. M1 rose 9.7% year-over-year, down from 10.1% in March. It was hit by lower growth in both overnight deposits and currency in circulation.
Economic survey data have been upbeat recently, but key Eurozone data releases yesterday suggest the ECB will be under pressure to increase monetary policy stimulus further this month. The advance inflation estimate showed that the euro area slipped back into deflation in September, as inflation fell to -0.1% year-over- year, from +0.1% in August. The fall was mainly due to a 8.9% collapse in energy prices, though, and we are very confident the relapse is temporary.
External demand for the Eurozone's largest economy is going from strength to strength. Seasonally adjusted German exports rose 3.4% month-to-month in December, equivalent to a solid 7.5% increase year-over-year.The revised indices show that the annualised surplus rose to an all-time high of €218B, or 7% of GDP, last year, indicating that the level of external savings remains a solid support for the economy.
Collapsing oil prices continue to weigh on inflation pressures in Eurozone. Inflation was unchanged at a minimal 0.2% year-over-year in August, largely due to an accelerated fall in energy prices, which plunged 7.1%, down from a 5.6% drop in July. Base effects will offer support for year-over-year changes in energy prices starting in Q4, but our fir st chart show downside risks loom in the short run.
Yesterday's sole economic report showed that the Eurozone's external surplus recovered ground over the summer, but we don't think the rebound will last long.
Investors in euro-denominated corporate debt will be listening closely to Mr. Draghi this week for hints on how the ECB intends to balance QE between public and private debt next year.
The upturn in the Eurozone construction sector likely paused in Q3. Yesterday's August report showed that output fell 0.2% month-to-month, pushing the year-over-year rate down to +1.6%, from a revised +2.8% in July.
We remain confident that a deal with Greece will be made, and that the country will stay in the euro area. But the need for both parties to avoid losing face domestically is still complicating the negotiations. Most importantly, Greece is no longer pledging an unconditional exit from the bailout program.
The euro area's external surplus dipped at the start of Q4.
Yesterday's surprising decline in the Eurozone unemployment rate adds further evidence to the story of a slowly healing economy. The rate of joblessness fell to 10.9% in July from 11.1% in June, the lowest since the beginning of 2012, mainly driven by a 0.5 percentage point fall in Italy, and improvement in Spain, where unemployment fell 0.2 pp to 22.2%.
Eurozone inflation pressures snapped back in April. Friday's advance report showed that headline inflation rose to 1.9% year-over-year, from 1.5% in March, lifted by a jump in the cor e rate to 1.2% from 0.7% the month before.
Inflation pressures are slowly, but surely, rising in the Eurozone. Advance data indicate that inflation in Germany rose to 0.7% year-over-year in May, up from 0.5% in April. Reduced drag from the non-core components is the main driver, with energy prices rebounding, and food prices now rising steadily at 1.4% year-over-year.
Industrial sector activity in the euro area was broadly stable at the beginning of the third quarter, despite the headline dip in the July manufacturing PMI. The Eurozone index fell to 52.0 in July, from 52.8 in June, but if it holds at this level it will be unchanged in Q3 compared with the second quarter.
The labour market in the Eurozone continues slowly to improve. The unemployment rate fell to 10.7% in October from 10.8% in September, reaching its lowest level since 2013. The divergence in rates, however, between the major economies remains significant. Unemployment in France, Italy and Spain is still above 10%, but the advance German number continued their record-breaking form in November.
Eurozone inflation pressures remained subdued in April. Today's final data likely will show that inflation fell to -0.2% year-over-year in April, from 0.0% in March. The main story in this report will be the reversal in services inflation from the March surge, which was due to the early Easter.
Fourth quarter construction activity in the Eurozone was much better than in Q3, despite a dip in December. Output fell 0.6% month-to-month in the final month of the year, pushing the year-over-year rate down to -0.4% from a revised 0.3% in November.
Construction data released yesterday provided further evidence that the Eurozone economy had a decent start to the fourth quarter. Output rose 1.3% month-on-month in October, equivalent to a 1.4% year-over-year increase.
Growth in new EZ car registrations slowed last month, but the data continue to tell a story of strong consumer demand for new cars. New registrations in the euro area rose 6.9% y/y in June, down from a 16.9% jump in May, mainly due to slowing growth in France. New registrations in the euro area's second largest economy rose a mere 0.8% year-over-year, after a 22% surge in May.
Barring a disaster, the four-year cyclical upturn in the euro area will continue in the coming quarters. Inflation is a lagging indicator and therefore should rise, and investors should be adjusting their mindset to higher interest rates. But the reality today looks very different. Final inflation data confirmed that the Eurozone inflation slipped to -0.2% year-over-year in February, from 0.2% in January.
Demands that Germany pay reparations from the Second World War, and the apparently deteriorating relationship between Messrs. Varoufakis and Schauble, have further complicated talks between the Eurogroup and Greece in recent weeks.
Data later today will likely show that the Eurozone's external balance remained firm last quarter at a record 2.5% of GDP. We think the seasonally adjusted current account surplus rose to €20.0B in December from €18.1B in November, with positive momentum in the key components continuing.
Demand for new cars in the Eurozone rebounded last month. New car registrations jumped 10.3% year-over-year in May, reversing the 5.1% decline in April. The headline was boosted by solid growth in all the major economies.
Historical evidence suggests that we should be worried about the relative weakness in the Eurozone's manufacturing sector. Industrial production ex-construction has historically been a key indicator of the business cycle, despite accounting for a comparatively modest 19% of total value-added in the euro area. In all three previous major downturns, underperformance in the manufacturing sector sounded the alarm six-to-nine months in advance that the economy was about to slip into recession.
Greece goes to the polls this weekend, but unlike the chaos in the summer, we doubt it will be a nail-biting experience for investors. Polls put Syriza and the conservative New Democracy neck-and-neck, but neither party likely will be able to form a majority. Syriza has ruled out a grand coalition, which potentially means tricky negotiations with minority parties. But we are confident that any new government will be committed to euro membership, and a constructive dialogue with the EU and IMF.
The construction sector in the Eurozone probably stumbled in March. Advance data for the major economies suggest that output fell 1.2% month-to-month, pushing the year-over-year rate down to 1.6% from 2.4% in February.
Eurozone current account data yesterday provided further evidence of stabilisation in the economy despite a headline deterioration. The adjusted current account surplus fell to €18.1B in November from a revised €19.5B in October, but the decline was mainly driven by an increase in current transfers; the core components remain solid.
We continue to see signs of a strengthening upturn in Eurozone construction. Output in construction rose 0.3% month-to-month in April, pushing the year-over-year rate down to 3.2%, from an upwardly revised 3.8% in March.
Car sales continue to offer solid support for consumption spending in the Eurozone. Growth of new car registrations in the euro area fell trivially to 10.6% year-over-year in September, from 10.8% in August, consistent with a stable trend. Surging sales in the periphery are the key driver of the impressive performance, with new registrations rising 22.1% and 17.1% in Spain and Italy respectively, and surging 30% in Portugal. Favorable base effects mean that rapid growth rates will continue in Q4, supporting consumers' spending.
Final inflation data yesterday confirmed Eurozone inflation pressures are still low. Inflation rose to 0.2% year-over-year in December from 0.1% in November, lifted by easing deflation in energy prices. Base effects likely will lift energy price inflation in January and February, but the year-over-year rate will dip in Q2, if the oil price remains depressed. Food inflation fell in December due to a decline in unprocessed food prices, and we see further downside in Q1. Core inflation was unchanged, with the key surprise that services inflation fell to 1.1% from 1.2% in November. We think this dip will be temporary, however, and our first chart shows that risks to services inflation are tilted to the upside.
Chief Eurozone Economist Claus Vistesen on the Italian Referendum result
Emmanuel Macron's victory in France has lifted investors' hopes that the good times in the Eurozone economy and equity markets are here to stay. On the face of it, we share markets' optimism. Mr. Macron and his opposite number in Germany--our base case is that Ms. Merkel will remain Chancellor--will form a strong pro-EU axis in the core of the Eurozone.
A strong December didn't change the story of another year of Eurozone equity underperformance in 2016. The total return of the MSCI EU, ex-UK, last year was a paltry 3.5%, compared to 11.6% and 10.6% for the S&P 500 and MSCI EM respectively. In principle, the conditions are in place for a reversal in this sluggish performance are present. Equities in the euro area do best when excess liquidity--defined as M1 growth less GDP growth and inflation--is rising.
Chief Eurozone Economist Claus Vistesen on Eurozone GDP data in Q3
Inflation pressures in the Eurozone nudged higher last month. Friday's final CPI report showed that inflation rose to 0.6% year-over-year in November, from 0.5% in October, in line with the initial estimate. The food, alcohol and tobacco component was the key driver of the increase.
The euro area economy continues to defy rising political uncertainty. Data yesterday showed that industrial production, ex-construction, in the Eurozone jumped 1.5% month-to-month in November, pushing the year-over-year rate up to 3.2% from a revised 0.8% in October. Output rose in all the major economies, but the headline was flattered by a 16.3% month-to-month leap in Ireland. This was due to a production jump in Ireland's "modern sector" which includes the country's large multinational technology sector.
The Eurozone's total external surplus hit the skids at the start of the year. Yesterday's report showed that the seasonally adjusted current account surplus plunged to a two-year low of €24.1B in January, from a revised €30.8B in December.
Money supply data in the euro point to a cyclical peak in GDP growth this year. Headline M3 growth fell to 4.8% year-over-year in July, from 5.0% in June, chiefly due to a slowdown in narrow money. M1 growth declined to 8.4%, from 8.7%, as a result of weaker momentum in overnight deposits and currency in circulation.
The manufacturing sector likely was the primary driver of Q3 GDP growth in the Eurozone. Data yesterday showed that industrial production rose 1.4% month-to-month in August, pushing the year-over-year rate up to 3.8%, from a revised 3.6% in July.
Chief Eurozone Economist Claus Vistesen comments on Eurozone Consumer Confidence
Bond investors in the Eurozone are licking their wounds following a 40 basis point backup in 10-year yields since the end of last month. Nothing goes up in a straight line, but we doubt that inflation data will provide much comfort for bond markets in the short term.
Eurozone politicians are likely scrambling for a last gasp return to negotiations before the Greek bailout program ends at the end of today. But progress will likely be limited until we have the result of the planned Greek referendum on Sunday. Voters will be asked essentially on whether they agree with the proposal presented by the institutions. The government will campaign for a "no," but a "yes" looks more likely, based on polls that Greeks want to stay in the Eurozone.
Chief Eurozone economist Claus Vistesen comments on the Eurozone PMIs
Yesterday's advance data from Germany and Spain suggest that today's Eurozone inflation report will undershoot the consensus. In Germany, headline inflation slipped to 1.6% in March from 2.2% in February, and in Spain the headline rate plunged to 2.3% from 3.0%.
Chief Eurozone Economist Claus Vistesen comments on the Eurozone's Money Supply
Chief Eurozone Economist Claus Vistesen on Greece
Yesterday's data showed that industrial production in the Eurozone accelerated at the end of spring. Output, ex-construction, jumped 1.3% month-to-month in May, much better than the downwardly-revised 0.3% rise in April; the rise pushed the year-over-year rate up to a six-year high of 4.0%.
The Eurozone has come under the spotlight for its growing external surplus, but domestic households have been doing the heavy lifting for GDP growth in this business cycle. During the last four quarters, consumers' spending has boosted year-over-year GDP growth by an average of 1.0 percentage points, in contrast to a 0.4pp drag from net exports.
The ECB's decision to go all-in and buy sovereign debt has three key consequences for U.S. markets. First, Treasuries will no longer benefit from safe-haven flows, because shorting Eurozone government debt has just become a fantastically risky proposition.
Friday's industrial production reports in the Eurozone were sizzling. In Germany, headline output rose 1.2% month-to-month in May--after a downwardly-revised 0.7% rise in April--which pushed the year-over-year rate up to a six-year high of 4.9%.
Construction in the Eurozone had a decent start in the third quarter. Output rose 0.5% month-to- month in July, pushing the year-over-year rate down to 1.9% from 2.8% in June.
Construction in the euro area stumbled at the end of last year. Output fell 0.2% month-to-month in December, but the year-over-year rose to 2.4%, from a revised 1.6% in November.
The Eurozone's external surplus is on track for a record-breaking year in 2016. Data yesterday showed that the current account surplus rose to €28.4B in October, from €27.7B in September. The trade surplus in goods fell, but this drag was offset by a higher services and income surplus, and a lower current transfers deficit.
Markets tend to ignore Eurozone construction data, but we suspect today's report will be an exception to that rule. Our first chart shows that we're forecasting a 8.5% month-to-month leap in February EZ construction output, and we also expect an upward revision to January's numbers.
Chief Eurozone Economist Claus Vistesen on Eurozone Current Account
Chief Eurozone Economist Claus Vistesen on Eurozone Industrial Production
Chief Eurozone Economist Claus Vistesen on the Eurozone recovery
Chief Eurozone Economist Claus Vistesen on the Eurozone Inflation
Chief Eurozone Economist Claus Vistesen on Eurozone deflation
European Central Bank's Bond-Buying Will Help U.S. Tourists and Investors...
Chief Eurozone Economist Claus Vistesen on Eurozone Inflation.
One of the key characteristics of this euro area business cycle has been near-zero inflation due to structurally weak domestic demand and depressed prices for globally traded goods and commodities. This has supported real incomes, despite sluggish nominal wage growth.
Chief Eurozone Economist Claus Vistesen on Q1 growth in the Eurozone
Claus Vistesen comments on Eurozone deflation
Political uncertainty has been a key theme in our recent conversations with clients, with many readers asking if it is time to step away, temporarily, from Eurozone assets. Valuations provide some support for that position.
Evidence of slowing growth in Eurozone consumers' spending continues to mount. Retail sales in the euro area fell 0.5% month-to-month in March, pushing the year-over-rate down to 2.1% from a revised 2.7% in February. The headline likely was depressed by the early Easter. March had one trading day less than February, which was not picked up the seasonals.
Our view that EZ survey data would take a step back in February was severely challenged by yesterday's PMI reports. The composite index in the Eurozone rose to 56.0 in February, from 54.4 in January, lifted by a jump in the services index and a small rise in the manufacturing index.
The Eurozone's TARGET2 system is a clearing mechanism for the real-time settling of large payments between European financial intermediaries. It's an important piece of financial architecture, ensuring the smooth flow of transactions. But we struggle to see these flows containing much information for the economy.
The Eurozone's external surplus remains solid, despite hitting a wall in August. The seasonally adjusted current account surplus fell to €17.7B in August from €25.6B in July, due to a €7B fall in the goods component. A 5.2% month-to-month collapse in German exports -- the biggest fall since 2009 -- was the key driver, but we expect a rebound next month. The 12-month trend in the Eurozone's external surplus continues to edge higher, rising to 3% of GDP up from 2.1% in August last year.
Chief Eurozone Economist Claus Vistesen on Eurozone unemployment
Chief Eurozone Economist Claus Vistesen on Eurozone GDP
Eurozone surveys make for 'grim reading' as region stutters
Chief Eurozone Economist Claus Vistesen on Eurozone GDP
After disappointing Italian Industrial Output Data, Pantheon Macroeconomics Chief Eurozone Economist Claus Vistesen discusses the current situation in the Eurozone.
Yesterday's euro area PMI data continue to tell a story of a firm business cycle upturn. The composite PMI was unchanged at 53.9 in December; an increase in the manufacturing index offset a decline in the services PMI.
This is the final report before your scribe disappears into the Scottish Highlands for a few weeks, and we are leaving you with a Eurozone economy in fine form. The calendar will be relatively light in our absence and will tell us what we already know; namely that the euro area economy maintained its strong momentum in Q2.
The cyclical upturn in the euro area's economy is going from strength to strength. Yesterday's second Q2 GDP estimate confirmed growth at 0.6% quarter- on-quarter, marginally stronger than the 0.5% rise in the first quarter.
Chief Eurozone Economist Claus Vistesen on European Car Sales
Chief Eurozone Economist Claus Vistesen on the ECB
Headline money supply growth in the Eurozone has averaged 5% year-over-year since the beginning of 2015; yesterday's October data did not change that story.
Friday's advance Eurozone PMI reports capped a fine quarter for the survey. The composite PMI jumped to a 80-month high of 56.7 in March, from 56.1 in February, rising to a cyclical high over Q1 as a whole.
Demand for new cars in the Eurozone bounced back strongly last month. Accelerating growth in the major economies lifted new registrations by 14.6% year-over-year in February, up from a 6.8% increase in January. Surging growth in Italy was a key driver, with new registrations jumping 27.3%, up from an already sizzling 17.4% in January.
European Central Bank unveils major stimulus program...
Investors in the Eurozone were faced with a busy economic calendar yesterday, but the message from the plethora of survey data was simple. The economic recovery in the euro area is strengthening, and risks to GDP growth are firmly tilted to the upside in coming quarters.
Money supply growth in the Eurozone firmed last month. Broad money--M3--rose 5.0% year-overyear in August, after a tepid 4.5% rise in July.
The euro area's external surplus remained resilient toward the end of 2017, in the face of a stronger currency. The seasonally adjusted trade surplus rose to €22.5B in November, from €19.0B in October, lifted primarily by a jump in German exports.
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Chief U.S. Economist Ian Shepherdson on the U.S. and European Economies
Chief Eurozone Economist Claus Vistesen comments on ECB speech changes
Chief Eurozone Economist Claus Vistesen discussing the latest Eurozone Construction data
Claus Vistesen, Pantheon Macroeconomics chief euro zone economist, discusses the outlook for the euro-zone economy in 2018 with Bloomberg's Scarlet Fu and Joe Weisenthal on "What'd You Miss?"
Chief Eurozone Economist Claus Vistesen on the latest German consumer figures
Claus Vistesen comments on the aftermath of the Greek referendum
Provocative notes from Ian Shepherdson, the Chief Economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics
The French industrial sector ended last year on an upbeat note, but the underlying trend in activity is still weak. Industrial production rose 1.5% month-to-month in December, equivalent to a 0.1% fall year-over-year.
An upbeat third quarter for GDP growth in France and slightly better sentiment data have offered at least some hope that the economy could stage a comeback into year-end. But yesterday's disappointing industrial production data poured cold water on that idea.
EZ equity futures predictably fell out of bed as the news of the Trump victory gradually became clear overnight yesterday. The reaction was less violent than after the U.K. Brexit referendum, though, and Mr. Trump's balanced victory speech appears to have calmed nerves for now.
The ECB made no major policy changes yesterday. The central bank kept its refinancing and deposit rates unchanged at 0.00% and -0.4% respectively, and the scheduled reduction in the pace of QE to €60B per month was confirmed. The core part of the central bank's language retained its dovish bias.
The ECB atoned for its "mistake" in December yesterday by delivering a new easing package that significantly beat markets' expectations. The central bank cut its main refi and marginal lending facility rates by 0.05 percentage points, to 0.00% and 0.25% respectively.
Friday's detailed October CPI report in Germany confirmed that inflation pressures are steadily rising. Inflation rose to 0.8% year-over-year in October, from 0.7% in September, lifted mostly by a continuing increase in energy prices.
Today's industrial production data will confirm that EZ manufacturing suffered a slow start to Q4. Advance country data signal a 0.2% month-to-month fall in October, slightly worse than the consensus, 0.0%.
The final June inflation report from Germany yesterday confirmed that pressures are rising. Inflation rose to 0.3% year-over-year in June, up from 0.1% in May, mainly due to higher energy prices. Household energy prices--utilities--fell 4.9% year-over-year, up from a 5.7% decline in May, while deflation in petrol prices eased to -9.4%, up from -12.1% in May.
We struggle to see how the pro-separatist movement in Catalonia can move forward from here.
The renewed decline in bond EZ bond yields has raised the question of whether inflation expectations will recover at all in this cycle. We think they will, and we also believe 10-year yields will rise towards 1%-to-1.2% towards the end of the year. But two factors will keep inflation expectations and yields in check in the near term.
Italy's long-term challenges--chiefly, structurally high government debt and deteriorating demographics--remain daunting, but the cyclical picture is improving steadily. Final GDP data last week revealed that growth in the first half of the year was 0.2% better than initially estimated, taking the annualised growth rate to 1.4%, the highest in five years. This is the first sign of a durable business cycle upturn since the sovereign debt crisis crashed the economy in 2012.
The 12-month average German trade surplus continues to set records, rising to €18.2B in January, but exports started the quarter on a weak note, falling 2.1% month-to-month in January, equivalent to a mere 1.9% rise year-over-year.
In yesterday's Monitor, we lamented the lack of growth in the French economy. The outlook is not much brighter in Italy. We think Italian GDP was unchanged quarter-on-quarter in Q4, slightly better than the -0.1% consensus but still very soft.
Demand in the German manufacturing sector stumbled at the end of Q4. Factory orders fell 0.7% month-to-month in December, but the details of the report were slightly more upbeat than the headline. The main hit came from a 2.5% fall in domestic orders, chiefly as a result of weakness in the intermediate goods sector.
Further compelling signs that the U.K. has lost its status as one of the fastest growing advanced economies were presented by the Markit/CIPS manufacturing survey, released yesterday. The PMI fell in February to 50.8--its lowest level since April 2013--from 52.9 in January.
Advance data suggest German inflation pressures eased towards the end of last year. Inflation fell to 0.3% year-over-year in December from 0.4% in November, likely due to a fall in food inflation--mean reversion in fruit and vegetables inflation--and a sharp fall in the annual price increase of clothing and shoes. State data indicate that deflation in household utilities persisted, but that inflation of fuel and transportation is slowly recovering. Assuming a stable oil price in coming months, base effects should push up energy price inflation in the first quarter, though it should then fall again slightly in the second quarter. Overall, though, we expect energy price inflation gradually to stabilise and recover this year.
Today's March retail sales report will likely disappoint, despite the already- downbeat consensus forecast of a 0.7% month-to-month fall. We think sales fell 1.2%, equivalent to a 1.3% increase year-over-year, due mostly to the bigger-than-expected 2.3% plunge in German sales, reported too late to be incorporated in the Bloomberg consensus.
German GDP growth jumped in the first quarter, but monthly economic data suggest the economy all but stalled in Q2. Yesterday's industrial production data are a case in point. Output slid 1.3% month-tomonth in May, pushing the year-over-year rate down to -0.4% from a revised 0.8% gain in April. Adding insult to injury, the month-to-month number for April was revised down by 0.3 percentage points
A setback in German manufacturing orders was coming after the jump at the end of 2016, but yesterday's headline was worse than we expected. Factory orders crashed 7.4% month-to-month in January, more than reversing the 5.4% jump in December. The year-over-year rate fell to -0.8% from a revised +8.0%. The decline was the biggest since 2009, but the huge volatility in domestic capital goods orders means that the headline has to be taken with a large pinch of salt.
Early results suggest that Mr. Macron has comfortably beat Marine Le Pen to become French president, defying a leak of emails and other documents from his En Marche campaign over the weekend. The final results won't be published until Monday morning, but the initial estimate indicates that Mr. Macron will edge Ms. Le Pen by 65.1% to 34.9%.
The headlines from Catalonia are as confusing as ever, but we are sticking to our view--see here--that regional elections are the only reasonable outcome of the chaos.
Even though Greece managed to avert default yesterday by paying €200M in interest to the IMF, our assumption is that the country remains on the brink of running out of money. Our view is supported by the government's decision to expropriate local authority funds, and reports that the government's domestic liabilities, excluding wages and pensions, are not being met.
Yesterday's German factory orders report showed that manufacturing activity accelerated in August. New orders rose 1.0% month-to-month, after a 0.3% increase in July, pushing the year-over-year rate up to +2.1% from a revised -0.6%.
Sterling's fall yesterday to $1.45 from $1.46 after the release of online and phone opinion polls from ICM both showing a three percentage point lead for "Leave" over "Remain" underlines that it not a formality that the U.K. will be a full member of the E.U. this time next month.
Yesterday's EZ CPI report points to a dovish backdrop for next week's ECB meeting. Advance data show that inflation was unchanged at 0.2% year-overyear in August, lower than the consensus, 0.3%. The headline was held back by a dip in the core rate to 0.8%, from 0.9% in July; this offset a lower deflationary drag from energy prices.
The German manufacturing sector is showing signs of stabilisation with industrial production rising 0.2% month-on-month in October, equivalent to 0.8% year-over- year. This is consistent with a decent retracement in production this quarter, but growth is still only barely above zero.
Last week's consumption releases were the first data from the real economy in the second quarter. In Germany, retail sales jumped 1.7% month-to-month in April, equivalent to a 1.0% rise year-over-year, an impressive start to the quarter. But our first chart shows that this still points to a moderate slowdown in Q2, consistent with mean-reversion following rapid gains in Q4 and Q1.
Advance data indicate German inflation rose to 0.4% year-over-year in November, up from 0.3% in October, lifted by higher food and energy price inflation. The upward trend in food prices won't last, but base effects in energy prices will persist, boosting headline inflation significantly in coming months. The details show that services inflation was stable at 1.2% last month, despite state data indicating a fall in volatile leisure and entertainment inflation, while net rent inflation was also stable, at 1.1%.
We expect the ECB to leave its main interest rates, and the scope and size of QE, unchanged at today's meeting. The governing council will recognize that the cyclical recovery is gathering momentum, but also note that inflation is still uncomfortably low.
The Chancellor argued in a speech on Thursday that the U.K.'s economic recovery is threatened by a "dangerous cocktail" of overseas risks, including slowing growth in the BRICs--Brazil, Russia, India, and China--and escalating tensions in the Middle East. Exports are set to struggle this year, but the strong pound, not weakness in emerging markets, will be the main drag.
The headline index in today's NFIB small business survey probably won't quite converge with the ISM manufacturing index, but it will come v ery close. To close the gap completely, for the first time since the crash, the NFIB needs to rise to just over 102, from 100.4.
German inflation eased in May, but the underlying upward pressure on the core is increasing. Yesterday's data showed that inflation fell to 1.5% year-over-year in May, from 2.0% in April, as the boost from the late Easter reversed. Inflation in leisure and entertainment services was driven down to +0.8%, from +3.3% in April, as a result of sharply lower inflation in package holidays and airfares.
Lending conditions in the EZ economy continued to improve in Q1, according to the ECB's bank lending survey. Business and consumer credit supply conditions eased, but mortgage lending became more difficult to come by as standards tightened sharply in Germany, France, and the Netherlands. Demand for new loans also rose, but the increase was due entirely to gains in the mortgage and consumer credit components.
German survey data did something out of character yesterday; they fell. The IFO business climate index declined to 117.2 in December from a revised 117.6 in November.
Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis' letter requesting a six-month loan extension has been interpreted widely as Syriza throwing in the towel. But we don't see this way. The best possible outcome for Greece is to be able to participate in the ECB's sovereign QE program, and to negotiate a new deal with the Troika; the request for an extension could very well achieve both.
Yesterday's EZ construction data confirmed that capex in the building sector plunged in the second quarter. Construction output fell 0.5% month-to-month in May, pushing the year-over-year rate up trivially to -0.8%, from a revised -1.0% in April. Our forecast for construction investment in Q2 is not pretty, even after including our assumption that production rebounded by 0.5% month-to-month in June.
Yesterday's final EZ PMIs imply that growth in manufacturing slowed marginally in August. The PMI fell to 51.7, from 52.0 in July, trivially below the initial estimate, 51.8. Output and new orders growth declined, pushing down the pace of new job growth. But we think the hard data for industrial production in Q3 as a whole will be decent.
The ECB will not make any adjustments to its policy stance today. We think the central bank will keep its main refinancing and deposit rates unchanged at 0.0% and -0.4%, respectively, and also that will maintain the pace of QE purchases at €80B a month. The updated macroeconomic projections likely will include a modest upgrade of this year's GDP forecast to 1.5%, from its 1.4% estimate in March.
Opinion polls suggest that the Italian population will reject Prime Minister Matteo Renzi's constitutional reform on Sunday. Undecided voters could still swing it in favour of Mr. Renzi, but the "No" votes have led the "Yes" votes by a steady margin of about 52% to 48% since October.
The ECB moved ahead of the curve this month with its QE program of €60B per month, starting in March. But still-abysmal inflation data will prompt journalists to ask Mr. Draghi, at the next ECB meeting, about the conditions under which the central bank plans to do more.
The Greek economy escaped recession in the second half of last year. Real GDP rose a cumulative 1.2% in Q2 and Q3, following a 0.6% fall in Q1. And industrial production and retail sales data suggest that the advance GDP report released later this month will show that the momentum was sustained in Q4. Headline survey data, however, indicate that downside risks to the economy remain.
The economy slowed less than we expected in 2017.
A year can make a big difference for the equity market. At this point last year, holders of the MSCI EU ex-UK were looking at a meaty gain of 21% year-to-date. The corresponding number this year is a sobering -12%. This is a remarkable shift, given stable GDP growth, close to cyclical highs, and additional easing by the ECB.
Markets have responded strongly to the ECB's announcement that it will be buying corporate bonds as part of QE. Net corporate debt issuance of non-financial firms jumped €16B in March, the biggest monthly increase since January 2014. The 12-month average, however, was stable at €3.6B, and a sustained increase in net debt supply partly depends on firms' appetite for financial engineering
Data on Friday showed that the EZ current account surplus fell to €25.3B in September, from a revised €29.2B in August. The trade and services surpluses were unchanged, but the income balance slipped after rising in the previous months.
The ECB held fire yesterday. The central bank kept its main refinancing rate unchanged at 0.0%, and also maintained the deposit and marginal lending facility rates at -0.4% and 0.25% respectively.
The ECB held fire yesterday and kept its main refinancing and deposit rates unchanged at 0.0% and -0.4%, respectively. The central bank also left the pace of monthly asset purchases unchanged at €80B. The introductory statement overall confirmed the central bank's dovish stance.
The political drama in Greece will continue to attract attention this week despite the advent of the holiday season. Prime Minister Samaras will try again tomorrow to secure a majority for his candidate for president, requiring a super majority of 200 votes. If it fails, the last attempt will be on December 29th, where the hurdle for the Prime Minister drops to 180 votes.
Speculators who have sold sterling over the last six months have been frustrated. Investors have been overwhelmingly net short sterling, but the pound has hovered between $1.20 and $1.25, as our first chart shows. Undeterred, investors increased their net short positions last week to 107K contracts-- the most since records began in 1992--from 81K a week earlier.
Abenomics has had its successes in changing the structure of Japan. Notably, large numbers of women have gone back to work and corporations have started paying dividends. These are by no means small victories. But overall, the macroeconomy is essentially the same as when Shinzo Abe became prime minister.
This weekend's first round of the French presidential election is too close to call. Our first chart indicates that a runoff between Marine Le Pen and Emmanuel Macron remains the best bet. But the statistical uncertainty inherent in the predictions, and the proximity of the two remaining candidates--the centre-right Mr. Fillon and far-left Mr. Melenchon-- mean that this is now effectively a four-horse race.
The latest balance of payments figures, released Wednesday, look set to show that the current account deficit widened in Q3, underlying the U.K.'s vulnerability to a sudden change in overseas investor sentiment. The risk of a full-blown sterling crisis, however, is lower than the enormous current account deficit would appear to suggest.
Catalonia goes to the polls today, and it will be a close call. Surveys point to a hung parliament in which neither the pro-separatists nor the unionist coalition will secure an absolute majority.
The deterioration of the Markit/CIPS manufacturing survey in November should temper optimism about the potential benefits of sterling's depreciation. The PMI fell to 53.4 in November, from 54.2 in October.
The face-off is intensifying between Madrid and the pro-independent local government in Catalonia. A referendum on independence in the northeastern state has been rejected by the Spanish government and has been declared constitutionally illegal by the high court.
Yesterday's industrial production report was poor, but the headline was better than we, and the market, feared. Output fell 0.5% month-to-month in August, but the July data were revised up 0.2%, pushing the year over-year rate--using the seasonally- and working day-adjusted index--higher to 1.9% from 1.4% in July. Bloomberg reported the year-over-year rate fell to 0.9% from 1.7% in July, but they used an index which is only working day-adjusted.
Demand for new cars rebounded strongly last month, following the dip in October. Registrations in the EU27 rose 13.7% year-over-year in November, up from 2.9% in October, lifted mainly by buoyant growth in the periphery. New registrations surged 25.4% and 23.4% year-over-year in Spain and Italy respectively, while growth in the core was a more modest 10%. We also see few signs of the VW emissions scandal hitting the aggregate data. VW group sales have weakened, but were still up a respectable 4.1% year-over-year. This pushed the company's market share down marginally compared to last year. But sizzling growth rates for other manufacturers indicate that consumers are simply choosing different brands.
Rapid growth in labour supply has enabled the U.K. economy to grow quickly over the last three years without generating excessive wage or inflation pressure. The rise in the participation rate--the proportion of those aged over 16 in or looking for work--has been critical to this revival. But the rise in the participation rate largely has reflected cyclical factors rather than a sustainable upward trend, and the downward pressure on participation from demographic factors will build over the coming years.
CHF traders, and the rest of the market, were blindsided yesterday by the decision of the SNB to scrap the 1.20 EURCHF floor. The SNB has already boosted its balance sheet to about 85% of GDP to prevent the CHF from appreciating, and with the ECB on the brink of adding sovereign bonds to its QE program, the peg was simply indefensible.
Markets initially objected to last week's ECB package, but the tune has since changed. The decision to focus on direct credit easing to the domestic economy, via more attractive TLTROs and corporate bond purchases--rather than by lowering rates further--is now seen by many analysts as a stroke of genius.
Yesterday's advance inflation data in Germany fell short of forecasts--ours and the consensus--for a further increase. Inflation was unchanged at 0.8% year-over-year in November, but we think this pause will be temporary.
France just about avoided slipping into deflation in December, with the CPI rising 0.1% year-over-year, down from 0.3% in November. The 4.4% drop in the energy component should have pushed inflation below zero, but a seasonal increase in tourism services was enough to offset the drag from oil prices.
Yesterday's industrial production report was grim reading, with volatility in Greece and the Netherlands, as well as revisions, throwing off our own, and the market's, forecasts. Output fell 0.4% month-to-month in May, well below the consensus and our expectation for a 0.2% rise, pushing the year-over-year rate higher to 1.6%, from a revised 0.9% in April.
This weeks' IMF's staff report on the Italian economy has increased the urgency for a compromise between the EU and Italy over the country's suffering banks. The report highlighted that financial sector reform is "critical" to the economy, and that the treatment of the significant portion of retail investors in banks' debt structure should be dealt with "appropriately."
Inflation pressures in France eased in February, in contrast to the story in the rest of the EZ. Yesterday's report confirmed the initial estimate that inflation fell to 1.2% year-over-year in February, from 1.3% in January. The headline was hit by a crash in the core rate to a two-year low of 0.2%, from 0.7% in January.
German 10-year government bond yields jumped at the end of 2016, but have since been locked in a tight range around 0.4%, despite a steady inflow of strong economic data.
Speaking in Brussels earlier this week, Mr. Draghi noted that the ECB is encouraged by signs that private investment is finally turning up, to complement strong consumption. It is too early to make that assumption, we think, but we agree with the president that the trend is moving slowly in the right direction.
The turmoil in Washington has begun to hit markets. We don't know how this will end, but we do know that it isn't going away quickly.
The Portuguese economy has faltered recently. In the year to Q2, real GDP rose only 0.8%, down from a 1.5% increase in the preceding year. Slowing growth in investment has been the key driver, but consumers' spending has weakened too.
A Reuters interview yesterday with ECB governing council member Benoît Coeuré cemented expectations that the ECB will adjust its language on forward guidance next month.
Investors have endured a severe test of their resolve in the last few months. Global equity markets have sunk more than 10%, eclipsing the previous low in September, and credit spreads have widened. The bears have predictably pounced and, as if the torrid price action hasn't been enough, media headlines have been littered with advice to "sell everything" and warnings of a 75% fall in U.S. and global equities. When "price is news" we recognise that views from well-meaning economists--often using lagging and revised economic data to describe the world--are of little value.
The growing perception that the U.K. MPC will lag further behind the U.S. Fed in this tightening cycle than previously has pushed sterling down to $1.49, a long way below its post-recession peak of $1.72 in mid-2014. But this has done little to enhance the overall competitiveness of U.K. exports, and net trade still looks likely to exert a major drag on real GDP growth in 2016.
With Russia and some other emerging economies now in full panic mode, the financial market story is sharply divided between two narratives. Either the plunge in global energy prices acts as positive catalyst by boosting real incomes and allowing most central banks to run easier monetary policy or it is a sign that risk assets are about to hit a deflationary wall.
Final October inflation data surprised to the upside yesterday, consistent with our view that inflation will rise faster than the market and ECB expect in coming months. Inflation rose to 0.1% year-over-year in from -0.1% in September, lifted mainly by higher food inflation due to surging prices for fruits and vegetables. This won't last, but base effects will push the year-over-year rate in energy prices sharply higher into the first quarter, and core inflation is climbing too. Core inflation rose to 1.1% in October from 0.9% in September, higher than the consensus forecast, 1.0%.
Japan's July adjusted trade surplus rebounded to ¥337.4B from ¥87.3B in June, far above consensus. On our seasonal adjustment, the rebound is slightly smaller but only because we saw less of a drop in June.
The ECB did its utmost not to say or do anything remotely novel today. The central bank kept its main refinancing and deposit rates unchanged at 0.00% and -0.40%, respectively, and reiterated its plan for QE next year.
Business investment held up surprisingly well last year.
Yesterday's detailed GDP report in Germany showed net exports propelled GDP growth to a cyclical high last quarter.
German labour market data continue to break records on a monthly basis. The unemployment rate was unchanged at 6.2% in A pril, with jobless claims falling 16,000, following a revised 2,000 fall in March. March employment rose 1.2% year-over-year, down slightly from 1.3% in February, but the total number of people in jobs rose to a new high of 43.4 million.
The twists and turns of the French presidential election campaign continue. François Fillon was tipped as favourite after he won the Republican primaries. But Mr. Fillon now is struggling to keep his campaign on track after allegations that he gave high paying "pro-forma" jobs to his wife as an assistant last year. The socialist candidate, Benoit Hamon, has been hampered by the unpopularity of his party's incumbent, François Hollande, and has lost ground to the far-left Jean-Luc Mélenchon.
In theory, any hit to sentiment and business investment as the E.U. referendum nears could be offset by a better foreign trade performance, due to the Brexit-related depreciation of sterling. But not every cloud has a silver lining.
The German manufacturing sector is showing signs of stabilisation with industrial production rising 0.2% month-on-month in October, equivalent to 0.8% year-over- year. This is consistent with a decent retracement in production this quarter, but growth is still only barely above zero.
In trade-weighted terms, sterling finished 2017 just 1% higher than at the start of the year, reversing little of 2016's 14% drop.
German factory orders struggled in the second quarter. New orders were unchanged month-to-month in May, a poor headline following the revised 1.9% plunge in April. The year-over-year rate rose to -0.2%, from a revised -0.4% in April. The month-to-month rate was depressed by a big fall in domestic orders, which offset a rise in export orders.
Predicting which way markets would move in response to potential general election outcomes has been relatively straightforward in the past. But the usual rules of thumb will not apply when the election results filter through after polling stations close on Thursday evening.
Yesterday's money supply data gave some respite after last month's disappointing slowdown. Broad money growth--M3--rose to 5.0% year-over-year, from 4.7% in December, but the details were less encouraging. The rebound was solely due slower declines in medium-term deposits, short-term debt issuance, and repurchase agreements.
Real GDP in Germany grew 0.7% quarter-on-quarter in Q4, thanks mainly to a 0.4% contribution from private consumption, and a 0.2% boost from net trade. Household consumption grew 2.2% annualised in 2014, the best year for German consumers since 2006.
Momentum in EZ money supply slipped marginally in September. Headline M3 growth slowed to 5.0%, from 5.1%, mainly due to a slowdown in narrow money. Overnight deposit growth slowed to 9.4%, from 9.9% in August, offsetting a slight rise in growth of currency in circulation.
August's Markit/CIPS services survey, released today, likely will show that the economy's biggest sector is continuing to slow. We think that the PMI fell to just 53.0--its lowest level since it plunged immediately after the Brexit vote--from 53.8 in July, below the consensus, 53.5.
The combination of upbeat survey data and solid consumer spending numbers indicate that the German economy is in good shape. But manufacturing data continue to disappoint; factory orders fell 0.9% month-to-month in February, equivalent to a 1.3% decline year-over-year.
Mr. Draghi was in a slightly more bullish mood yesterday, noting that the significant easing of financial conditions in recent months and improving sentiment show that monetary policy "has worked". Economic risks are tilted to the downside, according to the president, but they have also "diminished".
German factory orders probably bounced a modest 0.3% month-to-month in February, equivalent to a 0.5% decline year-over-year. We expect private investment growth to have picked up in the first quarter, but leading indicators for the industrial sector in Germany are sending conflicting signals.
The U.K.'s unexpected vote for Brexit means a stronger dollar for the foreseeable future, a sharp though likely containable drop in U.S. stock prices, and a further delay before the Fed next raises rates. The vote does not necessarily mean the U.K. actually will leave the EU, because the policy choices now facing leaders of Union have changed dramatically. An offer of substantial concessions on the migration issue--the single biggest driver of the Leave vote-- might be enough to trigger a second referendum, but this is a consideration for another day.
Yesterday's IFO survey sent a clear signal that the German economy's engine is stuttering. The business climate index fell to a 14-month low of 105.7 in February from 107.3 in January, and the expectations index slumped to 98.8 from 102.3. The weakness was driven by weaker sentiment in manufacturing, which plunged at its fastest rate since November 2008.
Sentiment in Germany has improved slightly this month with the IFO business climate index rising to 106.8 from 106.7 in January, pushed higher by a small increase in the expectations index.
The two polls suggesting the U.K. would remain in the EU yesterday proved to be a noose for investors to hang themselves with, as the results pointed to a vote for Brexit. Markets already are in disarray, and the direction is as we expected and feared. EUR/GBP is up 7%, and the DAX 30 in Germany is indicated by futures to plunge a hefty 7%-to-8% at the open. Bund yields will collapse too, and all eyes will be on the spread between Germany and the rest of the periphery.
The decision by the ECB to remove the waiver for including Greek government bonds in standard refinancing operations changes little in the short run, as the banking system in Greece still has full access to the ELA. It does put additional pressure on Syriza, though, to abandon the position that it will exit the bailout on February the 28th, effectively pushing the economy into the abyss.
Even Charles Dickens could not have written a more dramatic prologue to today's ECB meeting. Elevated expectations ahead of major policy events always leave room for major disappointment, but we think the central bank will deliver. Advance data yesterday indicated inflation was unchanged at 0.1% year-over-year in November, below the consensus 0.2%, and providing all the ammunition the doves need to push ahead. We expect the central bank to cut the deposit rate by 20bp to -0.4%, to increase the pace of bond purchases by €10B to €70B a month, and to extend QE to March 2017.
The sell-off in bonds and equities continued yesterday, but the reaction bears no resemblance, so far, to the sovereign debt crises in 2012 and 2010. The first evidence from sentiment data in July also points to surprising stability. The headline Sentix index rose to 18.5, up slightly from 17.1 in June, but the expectations index fell marginally, to 22.3 from 22.5.
In a letter earlier this month, Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras warned German chancellor Angela Merkel that failure to disburse additional bailout funds would lead to an imminent cash crunch. Last week's meeting with EU leaders and the ECB yielded no progress, intensifying the risk that Greece will literally run out of money within weeks.
Britain's shock vote to leave the E.U. has unleashed a wave of economic and political uncertainty that likely will drive the U.K. into recession.
For some economists and political analysts the surprising result of the U.K.'s EU referendum symbolises one of the biggest threats to the structure of the post-war social-liberal market economy. To this school of thought, the vote proved that the discontent of a pressured and disenfranchised working/middle class is rising, threatening to topple economies and political institutions.
This week is, potentially, hugely important in determining the Fed's near-term view of the real state of the labor market and its approach to monetary policy over the next few months. The key event is the release of the fourth quarter employment cost index, which could make a material difference to perceptions of the degree of wage pressure.
Today's preliminary estimate of GDP likely will show that the economy continued to struggle in response to high inflation, further fiscal austerity and Brexit uncertainty.
The IFO survey released yesterday provides further evidence that the cyclical recovery in Germany's economy continued in the current quarter. The headline business climate index rose to 107.9 in March from 106.8 in February, lifted by increases in both the current assessments and expectations index.
It will take months, and perhaps years, before markets have any clarity on the U.K.'s new relationship with the EU. In the U.K., the main parties remain shell-shocked. Both leading candidates for the Tory leadership, and, hence, the post of Prime Minister, have said that they would wait before triggering Article 50.
okThe weekend's election result in Spain provided relief for investors anxiously looking for another "surprise." Exit polls on Sunday showed a big majority for the anti-establishment party Podemos, but in the end Spanish voters opted for safety. The incumbent Partido Popular, PP, was the election's big winner compared with the elections six months ago, gaining 15 seats.
Corporate bonds will not be included in the ECB's monthly QE purchases until the end of Q2, but markets are already preparing. The sale of non-financial corporate debt jumped to €49.4B in March, from about €25B in February, within touching distance of the record set in Q1 last year.
Yesterday's factory orders report in German was grim reading. New orders fell 1.8% month-to-month in August, following a downwardly revised 2.2% plunge in July. Weakness in export demand and mean reversion in domestic orders were the key culprits. Domestic orders fell 2.6% month-to-month; nothing to worry about after a near-4% jump in July.
It's always dangerous when risk assets rally strongly into an ECB meeting, but we doubt that investors have much to fear from today's session in Frankfurt. We think the central bank will leave its main refinancing and deposit rates at 0.00% and -0.4% respectively.
The landslide victory by anti-austerity party Syriza in Greece this weekend will increase uncertainty in coming months. The coalition between Syriza and the Independent Greeks will prove a tough negotiating partner for the EU as both parties are strongly in favor of pushing the Troika to significant concessions on any future bailout terms this year.
The divergence between talk and action is steadily widening into a chasm at the ECB. Mr. Draghi continued to strike a dovish tone yesterday reiterating the elevated worries over low inflation and the unanimous commitment to provide further stimulus if needed.
The forecasts compiled by Bloomberg for today's June German factory orders data look too timid to us. The consensus is pencilling in a 0.5% month-to month rise, which would push the year-over-year rate down to -2.1%, from zero in May. But survey data point to an increase in year-over-year growth, which would require a large month-to-month rise due to base effects from last year.
The headline in yesterday's EZ money supply report gave the illusion that monetary conditions are stable, but the details tell a different story. M3 growth accelerated marginally to 5.0% year-over-year in June, from 4.9%, but momentum in narrow money fell further. M1 growth slowed to 8.5% year-over-year, from 9.0% in May due to a fall in overnight deposits and currency in circulation.
This year has been a story of two halves for EZ equities. The MSCI EU ex-UK jumped 11% in the first five months of 2017, but has since struggled to push higher.
The second estimate of Q3 GDP last week confirmed that the Brexit vote didn't immediately drain momentum from the economic recovery. But it is extremely difficult to see how growth will remain robust next year, when high inflation will cripple consumers and the impact of the decline in investment intentions will be felt.
The outlook for French consumers' spending improved this month, at the margin. The headline consumer sentiment index was unchanged at 98 in November, but most forward-looking indicators rose. Consumers' spending in was flat in Q2 and Q3, following a 1.1% jump in the first quarter.
New orders data released yesterday for Germany confirmed that weakness in the manufacturing sector remains a key challenge for the economy. Factory orders fell 2.4% month-on-month in November, equivalent to a 0.4% fall year-over-year.
This weekend will bring closure to an extraordinary presidential election campaign in France. The polls correctly predicted the first result, and assuming they are right in the second round too, Mr. Macron will comfortably beat Ms. Le Pen.
German manufacturing data continues to offer a sobering counterbalance to strong services and consumers' spending data. New orders plunged 1.7% month-to-month in September, well below the consensus, pushing the year-over-year rate down to a 1.0% fall from a revised 1.7% increase in August. These data are very volatile, and revisions probably will lift the final number slightly next month, but the evidence points to clear risks of a further decline in the underlying trend of production.
The headline changes in yesterday's ECB policy announcement were largely as expected. The central bank left its main refinancing and deposit rates unchanged at 0.00% and -0.4% respectively, and maintained the pace of QE at €60B per month. The central bank also delivered the two expected changes to its introductory statement. The reference to "lower levels" was removed from the forward guidance on rates, signalling that the ECB does not expect that rates will be lowered anytime soon.
Global monetary policy divergence has returned with a vengeance. In the U.S., despite recent soft CPI data, a resolute Fed has prompted markets to reprice rates across the curve.
The first exit poll published at 18.00 CET on Sunday evening points to a landslide victory for Syriza, and the real possibility that the party could form a majority government. Counter-intuitively, the prospects for Syriza here depend upon how the smaller parties do.
Trade data yesterday added to the downbeat impression of the German economy, following poor manufacturing data earlier in the week. Exports plunged 5.2% month-to-month in August--the second biggest monthly fall ever--pushing the year-over-year rate down to 4.4%, from a revised 6.3% in July. Surging growth in the past six months, and base effects pointed to a big fall in August, but we didn't expect a collapse.
The trade-off between the timeliness and accuracy of the data is fundamental to macroeconomic analysis. Coincident data such as GDP, industrial production and retail sales are the most direct measures of economic activity, but their first estimates don't always tell the full story.
The violence of recent bond market weakness likely has been driven mainly by reduced liquidity, and a squeeze in crowded positions. But we also think that it can be partly explained by an adjustment to higher inflation expectations. The latest ECB staff projections assume the average HICP inflation will be 0.3% this year, up from the zero predicted in March. Allowing for a smooth increase over the remainder of the year, this implies a year-end inflation rate of 0.8%.
Yesterday's advance EZ PMI data were virtually unchanged from previous months, yet again. The composite PMI rose trivially to 53.3 in August from 53.2 in July; this means that the index has been almost stable since February. The headline was lifted by a small increase in services, which offset a slight decline in manufacturing.
German industrial output was off to a sluggish start in the fourth quarter. Production eked out a marginal 0.2% month-to-month gain in October, pushing the year-over-year rate down to 0.0% from a revised 0.4% in September. Manufacturing output rose 0.6%, led by a 2.7% jump in production of capital goods, but the underlying trend in the sector overall is flat. On a more positive note, construction output rose 0.7% month-to-month in October, and leading indicators suggest this could be the beginning of a string of gains, lifting investment spending in coming quarters.
Six developments over the summer have increased the likelihood that the government will make concessions required to preserve unfettered access to the single market after formally leaving the EU in March 2019.
EZ consumers' spending slowed at the start of Q3. Retail sales slipped 0.3% month-to-month in July, pushing the year-over-year rate down to 2.6% from an upwardly revised 3.3% in June.
We aren't materially changing our U.S. economic forecasts in the wake of the U.K.'s Brexit vote, though we have revised our financial forecasts. The net tightening of financial conditions in the U.S. since the referendum is just not big enough--indeed, it's nothing like big enough--to justify moving our economic forecasts.
Negotiations between Greece and its creditors will come to a head in the next few weeks as the country faces imminent risk of running out of money. Following a meeting with the head of the IMF, Christine Lagarde, on Sunday Greek finance minister Faroufakis assured investors that the country intends to make a scheduled €450M payment to the fund on Thursday.
Survey data have been signalling a relatively resilient Brazilian economy in the last few months, despite intensified political risk, and hard data are beginning to confirm this story.
Today's ECB meeting will be accompanied by an update of the staff projections, where the inflation outlook will be in the spotlight. The June forecasts predicted an average inflation rate of 0.3% year-over-year this year, currently requiring a rather steep increase in inflation towards 1.1% at the end of the year. We think this is achievable, but we doubt the ECB is willing to be as bold, and it is reasonable to assume this year's forecast will be revised down a notch.
The upward trend in German inflation stalled temporarily in August, with an unchanged 0.4% year-over-year reading in August. A dip in core inflation likely offset a continued increase in energy price inflation. The detailed final report next month will give the full story, but state data suggest that the core rate was depressed by a dip in price increases of household appliances, restaurant services, as well as "other goods and services."
Mixed comments last week by members of the governing council raised doubts over the ECB's resolve to add further stimulus next month. But the message from senior figures and Mr. Draghi remains that the Central Bank intends to "re-assess" its monetary policy tools in December. Our main reading of last month's meeting is that Mr. Draghi effectively pre-committed to further easing. This raises downside risks in the event of no action, but the President normally doesn't disappoint the market in these instances.
Geopolitical tensions have risen sharply for Asia in the last few months, yet the RMB has appreciated sharply. China's currency appears to be playing some kind of safe haven role.
Yesterday's ZEW investor sentiment in Germany shows showed no signs that uncertainty over the U.K. referendum is taking its toll on EZ investors. The expectations index surged to 19.2 in June, from 6.4 in May, the biggest month-to-month jump since January last year, when investors were eagerly expecting the ECB's QE announcement.
On all accounts, the ECB announced a significant addition to its stimulus program yesterday. The central bank cut the deposit rate by 0.1%, to -0.3%, and extended the duration of QE until March 2017. The ECB also increased the scope of eligible assets to include regional and local government debt; decided to re-invest principal bond payments; and affirmed its commitment to long-term refinancing operations in the financial sector for as long as necessary. The measures were not agreed upon unanimously, but the majority was, according to Mr. Draghi, "very large".
The EU has had a better start to the Brexit negotiations than its counterpart across the Channel. The risk of disagreement within the EU on the details with of the U.K.'s exit is high, but the Continent has presented a united front so far, mainly because Mr. Macron and Mrs. Merkel agree on the broad objectives. They have no interest in punishing the U.K., but they are also keen to show that exiting the EU has costs for a country which leaves.
Core inflation has risen, albeit modestly, in the past two months. The uptick, to 1.8% in March from 1.6% in January, has come as something of a surprise. The narrative in the media and markets remains, as far as we can tell, one of downward pressure on inflation and, still, fear of possible deflation.
As widely expected, the ECB held fire yesterday. The central bank left its main refi rate unchanged at zero, and also kept the pace of QE unchanged at €80B a month. The deposit and marginal lending facility rates were also left unchanged at -0.4% and 0.25% respectively. The formal end-date of QE is still Q1 2017, but the press release repeated the message that QE can continue "beyond [Q1 2017], if necessary, and in any case until it sees a sustained adjustment in the path of inflation consistent with its inflation aim."
Another deadline has come and gone in the negotiations between Greece and its creditors. This week's meeting between EU finance ministers revealed that the creditors have not seen enough commitments unlock the €7B Greece needs to repay in July. Mr. Tsipras has agreed to energy sector privatizations, and to increase the threshold for income tax exemption.
In yesterday's Monitor, we laid out the macroeconomic case for moderately higher inflation in the second half of the year. But subdued market based inflation expectations indicate that the ECB will retain its dovish bias for now. The central bank's preferred measure, 5-year/5-year forward inflation expectations, have only increased modestly in response to QE, and have even declined recently on the back of higher market volatility.
The recovery in the French economy since the sovereign debt crisis has been lukewarm. Growth in domestic demand, excluding inventories, has averaged 0.4% quarter-on-quarter since 2012. This comp ares with 0.8%-to-1.1% in the two major business cycle upturns in the 1990s and from 2000s before the crisis.
On the eve of the referendum, opinion polls continue to suggest that the result is essentially a coin toss. The latest online polls point to a neck-and-neck race, while telephone polls point to a narrow Remain victory.
Yesterday's detailed EZ GDP report showed that real output rose 0.3% quarter-on-quarter in Q3, the same pace as in Q2. The year-over-over rate rose marginally to 1.7% from 1.6%, trivially higher than the first estimate, 1.6%. The details showed that consumers' spending and public consumption were the key drivers of growth in Q3, offsetting a slowdown in net trade.
The initial "official estimate" of the French presidential election--released 20.00 CET--suggest that the runoff will be between the centre-right Emmanuel Macron and Front National's Marine Le Pen. This is consistent with opinion polls. The average of five early estimates also suggests that Mr. Macron won the vote with 23.1% of the vote against Mrs. Le Pen's 22.5%.
Survey data continue to suggest that GDP growth will accelerate in Q1. The final PMI reports on Friday showed that the headline EZ composite index rose to 56.0 in February, from 54.4 in January, in line with the first estimate.
The ECB will keep all its policy parameters unchanged today. The refi and deposit rates will be maintained at 0.00% and -0.4%, respectively, and the pace of QE will stay at €60B per month, running until the end of the year.
November data for most of the major EZ business and consumer surveys arrive this week. We doubt the reports will change our view that EZ GDP growth likely will remain steady at about 1.6% year-over-year in Q4. But appearances matter, and risks are tilted to the downside in some of the main surveys, after jumps in October.
With most poll-of-poll measures showing a very narrow margin in the U.K. Brexit referendum, while betting markets show a huge majority for "Remain", today brings a live experiment in the idea that the wisdom of crowds is a better guide to elections than peoples' preferences.
German inflation surged in December, pointing to an upside surprise in today's advance EZ report. The headline inflation rate rose to a three-year high of 1.7% year-over-year in December, from 0.8% in November. This was the biggest increase in the year- over-year rate since 1993.
If 2017 really is the year of "reflation", somebody forgot to tell the gilt market. Among the G7 group, 10-year yields have fallen only in the U.K. during the last three months, as our first chart shows.
Brazil's manufacturing PMI edged down to a six-month low of 45.2 in December, from 46.2 in November. This marks a disappointing end to Q4, following a steady upward trend during the first half of the year, as shown in our first chart. December's new work index fell to 45.2 from 47.7 in November, driving a slowdown in production, purchases of materials, and employment. The new export orders index also deteriorated sharply in December, falling close to its lowest level since mid-2009.
Investors will get what they want today from the ECB: additional easing in the form of government bond purchases. The central bank is likely to announce or pre-commit to sovereign QE and corporate bond purchases in a new program that will last at least two years.
The ECB sent a strong signal yesterday that it is ready to fight deflation with a full range of unconventional monetary policy tools. Asset purchases, including sovereigns, to the tune of €60B per month will begin in March, and will run until end-September 2016, but Mr. Draghi noted that purchases could continue if the ECB is not satisfied with the trajectory of inflation.
The manufacturing sector appears to have finished 2017 on a strong note. The Markit/CIPS manufacturing PMI fell to 56.3 in December from 58.2 in November, but it remained above its 12-month average, 55.9.
Growth in new EZ car sales remained brisk last month, growth slowed in Q3. New registrations rose 9.4% year-over-year in September, marginally lower than the 9.6% increase in August. Growth in France fell most, sliding to 2.5% from 6.7% in August, but sales in Germany picked up to 9.4%, from 8.3%.
Inflation data are known to defy economists' forecasts, but it should in principle b e straightforward to predict the cyclical path of EZ core inflation. It is the longest lagging indicator in the economy, and leading indicators currently signal that core inflation pressures are rising.
Ignore the Chinese deflation panic......The cyclical recovery is on track, and inflation is rising
We tend to keep a close eye on monetary policy initiatives in Japan, as the BOJ's fight to spur inflation in a rapidly ageing economy resembles the challenge faced by the ECB.
The debate about the ECB's policy trajectory is bifurcated at the moment. Markets are increasingly convinced that a rapidly strengthening economy will force the central bank to make a hawkish adjustment in its stance.
German inflation pressures were unchanged last month. The CPI index rose 0.8% year-over-year, matching the increase in October, and in line with the consensus and initial estimate. Energy deflation intensified marginally, as a result of lower prices for household utilities.
Today's advance CPI data will show that EZ inflation pressures rose further at the end of Q3. The headline number likely will exceed the consensus. We think inflation rose to 0.5% year-over-year in September from 0.2% in August, slightly higher than the 0.4% consensus.
The ECB made no changes to its policy stance yesterday. The central bank left its refinancing and deposit rates at 0.00% and -0.4%, respectively, and maintained the pace of QE at €60B per month. The program will run until December "or beyond, if necessary."
Predicting which way markets would move in response to potential general election outcomes has been relatively straightforward in the past. But the usual rules of thumb will not apply when the election results filter through after polling stations close on Thursday evening.
The slew of EZ economic data on Friday supports our view that the economy ended 2016. The Commission's economic sentiment index jumped to 107.8 in December from a revised 106.6 in November. The headline strength was due to a big increase in "business climate indicator" and higher consumer sentiment. In individual countries, solid numbers for German construction and French services sentiment were the stand-out details.
Senior International Economist Andres Abadia on Latam currency risks.
Worries over China and deflation linger...and will likely push the ECB to extend QE this month
The preliminary April PMIs due today will provide the first economic sentiment data for Q2, and likely will point to a continuation of the cyclical recovery. We think the composite PMI was unchanged at 54.0 in April, driven by a small gain in manufacturing offset by a slight decline in services.
The Greek polls released Sunday evening indicate a comfortable victory for "no," rejecting the latest EU proposal. This is not a good outcome for the market, and volatility will likely increase substantially today. The result--not confirmed as we go to press but very clearly indicated by the count so far--gives an air of legitimacy to Syriza's brinkmanship, but the creditors' reaction to a "no" vote, which they likely did not expect, is uncertain.
We fear that private spending in the EZ slowed in Q1, despite rocketing survey data. This fits our view that household consumption will slow in 2017 after sustained above-trend growth in the beginning of this business cycle.
The sell-off in risky assets intensified while we were away, driven by China's decision to loosen its grip on the currency, and looming rate hikes in the U.S. The Chinese move partly shows, we think, the PBoC is uncomfortable pegging to a strengthening dollar amid the unwinding investment boom and weakness in manufacturing.
Today's data likely will show that EZ households' sentiment remained close to a record high at the start of the year.
Germany's consumer price index fell 0.3% month-over-month in January. It's the first time the inflation rate went negative since September 2009. "Deflation has arrived," Pantheon Macroeconomics' Claus Vistesen said
Today's advance EZ CPI report likely will show that inflation pressures eased in May. We think inflation slipped to 1.5% year-over-year, from 1.9% in April, as the boost to the core rate from the late Easter faded.
Claus Vistesen on the Greek election results impact on the Eurozone
Chief Eurozone Economist Samuel Tombs on Brexit
Pantheon Macroeconomics Chief Eurozone Economist Claus Vistesen discusses how the ECB will respond to the missed IMF payment yesterday.
Chief Eurozone Economist Claus Vistesen on German Industrial Production
Germany's exporters just broke another record: The trade surplus for Europe's biggest economy is now at its highest on record.........Here's how Germany's recent export history looks, according to Pantheon Macroeconomics
Pantheon Macroeconomics Founder and Chief Economist Ian Shepherdson discusses his outlook for the economy, equities and European banks. He speaks on "Bloomberg Surveillance."
Survey data in the Eurozone were mixed yesterday. In Germany, the advance GfK consumer sentiment index slipped to 10.0 in October, from 10.2 in September, marginally below consensus forecasts. The details, reported for September, also were soft.
The FTSE 100 has fallen by 4% over the last two weeks, exceeding the 1-to-3% declines in the main US, European and Japanese markets. The FTSE's latest drop builds on an underperformance which began in early 2014. The index has fallen by 10% since then--compared to rises of between 10% and 20% in the main overseas benchmarks--and has dropped by nearly 15% since its April 2015 peak. We doubt, however, that the collapse in U.K. equity prices signals impending economic misery. The economy is likely to struggle next year, but this will have little to do with the stock market's travails.
Yesterday's economic reports confirmed that the Eurozone economy had a strong start to 2017. Real GDP rose 0.5% quarter-on-quarter in Q1, similar to the pace in Q4, and consistent with the first estimate. The year-over-year rate fell marginally to 1.7%, from 1.8% in Q4, mainly due to base effects.
Final data for Eurozone inflation yesterday revealed that inflation fell slightly to 0.1% year-over-year in August, from 0.2% in July, a tiny downward revision from the original estimate of 0.2%. Depressed energy prices will continue to constrain inflation in coming months, but base effects will reduce this drag, and core inflation is rising. Nominal GDP growth accelerated to 2.9% year-over-year in Q2, up from 2.4% in Q1, sending a convincing signal of higher core inflation.
Growth in Eurozone car sales slowed slightly at the end of the first quarter. New car registrations in the euro area rose 5.8% year-over-year in March, down from a 14.4% increase in February. But the 12-month average level of new registrations jumped to new cyclical highs of 440,000 and 252,000 in the core and periphery respectively.
Spain heads to the polls on Sunday, but unlike the chaos that descended on Europe following Greece's elections earlier this year, we expect a market-friendly outcome. The key political story likely will be the end of the two-party system, as polls indicate neither of the two largest mainstream parties--Partido Popular and PSOE--will be able to form a majority. Markets' fears have been that the fall of the established parties would allow anti-austerity party, Podemos, to lead a confrontation with the EU, but this looks very unlikely.
As warned--see our Monitor April 7--economic data in the Eurozone disappointed while we were away. Industrial production, ex-construction, in the euro area slipped 0.3% month-to-month in February, and the January month-to-month gain was revised down by 0.6 percentage point to +0.3%.
Sterling weakened further yesterday as anxiety grew that PM Theresa May will indicate she is seeking a "clean and hard Brexit" in a speech today. This could mean the U.K. leaves the EU's single market and customs union, in order to control immigration, shake off the jurisdiction of the European Court and have a free hand in trade negotiations with other countries.
Inflation in the Eurozone jumped in December, and will surge further in Q1 as base effects from last year's crash in oil prices push energy inflation higher. Higher inflation in the U.S. and surging Chinese factory gate prices indicate that this isn't just a Eurozone story.
The German inflation rate soared at the start of 2017, but it likely will fall in the next few months. Final February data yesterday showed that inflation rose to 2.2% in February, from 1.9% in January, consistent with the initial estimate. Since December, headline inflation in Germany, and in the EZ as a whole, has been lifted by two factors. Base effects from the 2016 crash in oil prices have pushed energy inflation higher, and a supply shock in fresh produce--due to heavy snowfall in southern Europe--has lifted food inflation.
The danse macabre between Greece and its creditors continued last week, increasing the risk of default and capital controls. Greek citizens don't want to leave the euro and Germany does not want a Grexit, two positions which should eventually form the basis for an agreement.
Yesterday's second batch of Q3 GDP data in the euro area provided further evidence of a strong and stable cyclical upturn in the economy.
Mr. Draghi's introductory statement before yesterday's hearing at the European Parliament repeated that the ECB will "review and possibly reconsider its monetary policy stance in March." But it didn't provide any conclusive smoking gun that further easing is a done deal.
Increasingly, we are hearing equity strategists argue that investors should rebalance their portfolios toward EZ equities. On the surface, this looks like sound advice. Commodity prices have exited their depression, factory gate inflation pressures are rising, and global manufacturing output is picking up. These factors tell a bullish story for margins and earnings at large cap industrial and materials equities in the euro area.
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The Eurozone inflation data have been relatively calm in the past six months. The headline rate has been stable at about 1.5%, and the core rate has fluctuated closely around 1%.
Mr. Draghi's speech to the European Banking Congress on Friday--see here--was a timely reminder to markets that the ECB is in no hurry to make any changes to its policy setting.
The global economy is heading towards a new scenario, triggered by the impending start of the monetary policy normalization process in the U.S. In some major economies, notably the Eurozone, the Fed's actions will not derail or even jeopardize the cyclical economic upturn.
Financial markets in the Eurozone will be pushed around by global events today. The Bank of Japan kicks off the party in the early hours CET, and the spectrum of investors' expectations is wide.
While we were out, the key economic news in the Eurozone was mostly positive. The main upside surprise came from the advance Q2 German GDP report, which showed that real GDP rose 0.4% quarter-on-quarter, slowing from the 0.7% jump in the first quarter.
Economic survey data this week will give the first clear evidence on whether recent market volatility has dented Eurozone confidence. The key business and consumer surveys dipped in January, and we now expect further declines, starting with today's PMI data. We think the composite index fell slightly to 53.0 in February from 53.6 in January.
Policymakers and macroeconomic forecasters at the ECB will be doing some soul-searching this week. GDP growth in the euro area accelerated to a punchy 2.5% year-over-year in Q3, and unemployment dipped to a cyclical low of 8.9%.
The Eurozone limped out of headline deflation in October, with inflation rising to 0.0% from -0.1% in September, helped by higher core and food inflation. Energy prices fell 8.7% year-over-year, up trivially after a 8.9% drop in September, but base effects will push up the year-over-rate significantly in coming months. Core inflation edged higher to 1.0% from 0.9% in September, due to 0.1 percentage point increases in both non-energy goods and services inflation.
The ECB won't make any major changes to its policy stance today. We think the central bank will keep its main refinancing rate unchanged at 0.00%, and that it will maintain its deposit and marginal lending facility rate at -0.4% and 0.25%, respectively. The central bank also will keep the pace of QE unchanged at €80B per month until March, and at €60B hereafter until December. This is the first ECB meeting for some time in which Mr. Draghi will be able to report significantly higher inflation in the euro area.
Yesterday's final CPI report in the Eurozone confirmed that headline inflation was unchanged at 1.5% in September.
Today's ZEW investor sentiment report in Germany will kick off a busy week for Eurozone economic survey data, which likely will be tainted by the U.K. referendum result. We think the headline ZEW expectations index fell to about five in July, from 19.2 in June, below the consensus forecast, 9.2. Our forecastis based on the experience from recent "unexpected" shocks to investors' sentiment.
Construction data in the Eurozone usually don't attract much attention, but today's July report will provide encouraging news, compared with recent poor manufacturing data. We think construction output leapt 2.1% month-to-month, pushing the year-over-year rate up to 2.3%, from 0.7% in June. This strong start to the third quarter was due mainly to a jump in non-residential building activity in France and Germany.
Yesterday's final May manufacturing PMIs confirmed that the EZ industrial sector is in fine form. The PMI for the euro area was unchanged at a cyclical high of 57.0 in May, in line with the initial estimate.
The Eurozone economy was resilient at the end of last year, but yesterday's reports indicated that growth was less buoyant than markets expected. Real GDP in the euro area rose 0.4% quarter-on-quarter in Q4, the same pace as in Q3, but slightly less than the initial estimate 0.5%.
Eurozone manufacturers had an underwhelming start to Q4. Data yesterday showed that production fell 0.1% month-to-month in October, pushing the year-over-year rate down to 0.6%, from a revised 1.3% in September. Output was constrained mostly by weakness in France and a big month-to-month fall in Ireland, which offset marginal gains in Germany and Spain.
Inflation in the Eurozone rose modestly last month. Yesterday's advance CPI report showed the headline rate rising to 0.6% year-over-year in November, from 0.5% in October, mainly because of a jump in fresh food inflation. Energy prices fell 1.1% year-over-year, slightly more than the 0.9% decline in October, but we expect a sharp increase over the next six months.
Friday's data deluge suggests that EZ economic growth slowed less than we expected in the second quarter. The advance estimate indicates that real GDP in the euro area rose 0.3% quarter-on-quarter in Q2, down from a 0.6% jump in the first quarter. This was in line with the consensus, but it likely doesn't tell the whole story.
A mix of political and economic events have triggered outflows of capital from emerging markets this year. Tensions in Europe, due to the "Grexit" saga, together with China's slowdown and concerns about Fed lift-off have weighed on EM flows. In recent months, though, some of the pressure on EM currencies has eased as the markets have come to expect fewer U.S. rate hikes in the near term.
Eurozone inflation eased slightly to 0.2% year-over- year in June, down from 0.3% in May, according to the advance data but we continue to think that the trend has turned up. A 5.1% fall in energy prices, accelerating from a 4.8% in May, was partly to blame for the fall in June. But the key driver was the sharp drop in services inflation to 1.0% from 1.3% in May, likely due to volatility in package holiday prices.
The U.K. is one of the smallest winners among advanced economies from the precipitous decline in oil prices. British oil production still fulfils about 55% of the U.K.'s demand, even though it has declined by two-thirds since its 1999 peak. Oil consumption therefore exceeds production by a much smaller margin in the U.K. than in most other European countries. As a result, the boost to the U.K. economy from the $10 decline in oil prices over the last month isn't much to write home about.
Yesterday's aggregate economic data for the euro area showed that inflation rose slightly in August. The headline rate rose to a four-month high of 1.5% in August from 1.3% in July. The rate was lifted mainly by energy inflation, rising to 4.6% from 2.2% in July, but we think the rebound will be short-lived.
Yesterday's German factory orders data suggest that manufacturing remained weak in the beginning of Q1. New orders fell 0.1% month-to-month in January, though the year-over-year rate rose to 1.1% from a revised -2.2% in December. The small monthly decline was due to a fall in domestic orders; this offset an increase in export orders to other Eurozone economies.
Yesterday's survey data tell a story of resilient manufacturing in the Eurozone. The headline EZ PMI rose to 52.6 in September, from 51.7 in August, lifted by a rise in new orders to a three-month high.
The Eurozone economy is in fine form...but this is likely as good as it gets
Strong and stable growth in the Eurozone...but now comes the increase in yields and inflation
The Eurozone Economy Is In Fine Form.. But Don't Believe Everything the ECB is Telling You
The Eurozone optimists are out in numbers...But don't expect economic miracles just yet
The Eurozone economy is in rare good form...So what should investors worry about?
Amid the intensifying debate about the pros and cons of E.U. membership, higher immigration from the rest of Europe often is blamed for the disappointing weakness of wage growth over the last couple of years. But we see little evidence to support that hypothesis.
Another day, another solid economic report in the Eurozone. Data yesterday showed that industrial production in France jumped 2.2% month-to-month in November, pushing the year-over-year rate up to +1.8%, from -1.8% in October. The 2.3% jump in manufacturing output was the key story, offsetting a 0.3% decline in construction activity. Production of food and beverages rebounded from weakness in October, and oil refining also accelerated.
Soft September data in Germany and Italy suggest that today's industrial production report in the Eurozone will be poor. Our first chart shows that data from the major EZ economies point to a 0.8% month-to- month fall in September.
Markets are becoming more sensitive to rumours about changes in ECB policy. The euro and yields jumped on Friday after a Bloomberg report that the central bank has discussed raising rates before QE ends.
Collapsing energy prices continue to weigh on the headline inflation rate in the Eurozone's largest economy. Final September CPI data in Germany confirmed that inflation fell to 0.0% year-over-year from 0.2%, due to a 9.3% plunge in energy prices -- down from a 7.6% fall in August--mainly a result of a collapse in petrol price inflation. This comfortably offset an increase in food inflation to 1.1% from 0.8%, due to surging vegetable and fruit prices.
The RMB has risen strongly in recent months, initially with the euro and the yen, but China's currency rose on a trade-weighted basis in August.
Today's advance Q2 GDP report in Germany will add evidence that the EZ economy performed strongly in the first half of 2017. We can be pretty sure that the headline will be robust. The German statistical office reports a confidential number to Eurostat for the first estimate of EZ GDP--two weeks ahead of today's data--which was a solid 0.6%.
All eyes in the Eurozone will be on the second estimate of Q4 GDP today, and the report likely will confirm that growth accelerated in Q4. We think real GDP rose 0.5% quarter-on-quarter, up from a 0.3% increase in Q3, in line with the first estimate. If this forecast is correct, the year-over-year rate will be unchanged at 1.8%. Risks to the headline, however, are tilted to the downside.
Car registrations, French inflation, advance PMIs and a central bank meeting make up today's substantial menu for investors in the euro area.
CPI data today in France and Germany will confirm that current inflation rates remain very low in the euro area. Inflation in Germany likely rose to 0.3% year-over-year from 0.0% in September, in line with the consensus and initial estimate. State data indicate that the rise was driven by surging fresh food prices and slightly higher services inflation, principally due to a jump in the volatile recreation and culture sector. Looking ahead, food prices will drop back, but energy inflation will rise rapidly as last year's plunge drops out of the year-over-year comparison, while upward core pressure is now emerging too.
Eurozone manufacturing probably stalled at the start of the second quarter. We think industrial production rose a mere 0.1% month-to-month in April, lower than the 0.4% consensus forecast, and equivalent to a 0.8% increase year-over-year. Output ex-construction was up 0.8% in Germany, but this is likely to be offset by declines in France and Italy, and a hefty 3.2% fall in Greece.
Claims abound that sterling's sharp depreciation since the start of the year--to its lowest level against the dollar since May 2010--partly reflects the growing risk that the U.K. will vote to leave the European Union in the forthcoming referendum. We see little evidence to support this assertion. Sterling's decline to date can be explained by the weakness of the economic data, meaning that scope remains for Brexit fears to push the currency even lower this year.
We expect Greece to do what it needs to do by Wednesday to secure its third bailout, and, judging by her speech in Cleveland last Friday, so does the Fed Chair. It's always risky to assume blithely that European politicians will do the right thing in the end, and they seem absolutely determined to humiliate Greece before writing the checks, but a completed deal is the most likely outcome.
While we were away, the advance Q2 GDP report in the Eurozone confirmed our expectations of a strong first half of the year for the economy. Real GDP rose 0.6% quarter-on-quarter, the same pace as in Q1, lifting the year-over-year rate to a cyclical high of 2.1%.
Discussions between Greece and its creditors drifted further into limbo last week, but we are cautiously optimistic that the Euro Summit meeting later today will yield a deal. The acrimony between Syriza and the main EU and IMF negotiators means, though, that a grand bargain is virtually impossible. We think an extension of the current bail-out until year-end is the most likely outcome.
Demand for new cars in the Eurozone has climbed a long way since the last recession, but growth is slowing. Overall, new car registrations in the EZ rose a solid 15.2% in 2016 as a whole. But momen tum slowed in the second half, and sales likely will remain comparatively muted this year. In December, registrations in the euro area rose 2.1% year-over-year in December, down from 5.8% in November. The headline was depressed by plunging growth in some of the smaller countries, offsetting better numbers in the major four economies.
As we go to press, all evidence suggests that the Italian population has rejected the Constitutional referendum. An exit poll conducted by Italian broadcasters at 22.00 CET indicates that the "no" side has it, by a majority of 56% to 44%. These polls have proven unreliable in the past, though, and we won't know for sure until the early hours in Europe.
This week's detailed Q3 GDP data will confirm that the euro area economy is going from strength to strength.
Today's market attention will be focused on the advance August PMI data in the major EZ economies. We think the composite PMI in the euro area was unchanged at 53.2 in August, consistent with stable GDP growth of 0.3%-to-0.4% quarter-on-quarter in Q3. The signal of "stability" in the Eurozone business cycle has been consistently relayed by the PMI since the beginning of the year.
Readers have asked us about the availability of flow-of-funds data in the Eurozone similar to the detailed U.S. reports. The ECB's sector accounts come close and cover a lot of ground, but are also released with a lag. We can't cover all sectors in one Monitor, but the investment data for non-financial firms, excluding construction, suggest that investment growth slowed last year.
Inflation in the Eurozone is on the rise but, as we explained in yesterday's Monitor it is unlikely to prompt the ECB further to reduce the pace of QE in the short run. The central bank has signalled a shift in focus towards core inflation, at a still-low 0.9% well below the 2% target. But the core rate also is a lagging indicator, and we think it will creep higher in 2017.
Consumers' spending in the euro area weakened at the end of Q4, but we think households will continue to boost GDP growth in the first quarter. Data on Friday showed that retail sales fell 0.3% month-to-month in December, pushing the year-over-year rate down to 1.1%, from a revised 2.8% in November.
Final October PMI data today will confirm the Eurozone's recovery remains on track. We think the composite PMI rose to 54.0 from 53.6 in September, in line with the consensus and initial estimate. Data on Monday showed that manufacturing performed better than expected in October, and the composite index likely will enjoy a further boost from solid services. The PMIs currently point to a trend in GDP growth of 0.4%-to-0.5% quarter-on-quarter, the strongest performance since the last recession.
Europeans, who usually save more of their income than Americans, have spent all the windfall from falling gas prices. Americans have not. It is tempting, therefore, to argue that perhaps Americans have come to see the error of their low-saving ways, and are now seeking to emulate the behavior of high-saving Europeans. Undeniably, the plunge in gas prices has given Americans the opportunity to save more without making hard choices.
Inflation pressures in the Eurozone are building rapidly, setting up an "interesting" ECB meeting next week. Yesterday's advance CPI report showed that inflation edged up further in February to 2.0%, from 1.8% in January. The headline rate is now in line with the ECB's target, and up sharply from the average of 0.2% last year.
In our Monitor on January 27 we speculated that the new U.S. administration would see Germany's booming trade surplus as a bone of contention. We were right. Earlier this week, Peter Navarro, the head of Mr. Trump's new National Trade Council, fired a broadside against Germany, accusing Berlin for using the weak euro to gain an unfair trade advantage visa-vis the U.S.
Money supply data in the euro area are sending an increasingly upbeat signal on the economy. The increase in narrow money growth is the key variable here, now pointing to a noticeable acceleration in GDP growth later this year. Allowing for the usual lags between upturns in M1 and the economy, we should start to see this in the second and third quarter.
Volatile commodity prices make this week's inflation data in Germany and the Eurozone a wild card. Crude oil in euro terms is down about 20% month-to-month in July, which will weigh on energy prices. In Germany, though, we think higher core inflation offset the hit from oil, pushing inflation slightly higher to 0.4% year-over-year in July from 0.3% in June.
Bullish money supply data last week added to the evidence that the Eurozone's business cycle is strengthening. Broad money growth--M3--rose to 5.3% year-over-year in October from 4.9% in September. Most of the increase came from a surge in short-term debt issuance, rising 8.4% year-over-year, following an inexplicable 1.4% fall in September.
The recent deal between Greece and the EU shows that the appetite for a repeat of last year's chaos is low. But investors' attention has turned to whether Portugal is waiting in the wings to reignite the sovereign debt crisis. Complacency is dangerous, but economic data suggest that a Portuguese shock to the Eurozone economy and financial markets is unlikely this year.
Would the U.K. inevitably leave the E.U. if a majority of the electorate voted for Brexit on June 23? Repeatedly, the Government has quelled speculation that it will call for a second referendum on an improved package of E.U. reforms after a Brexit vote on June 23. But unsuccessful referendums have been followed up with second plebiscites elsewhere in Europe.
Eurozone investors will be looking anxiously across the pond overnight as the results of U.S. elections come in. Our assumption is that Hillary Clinton will be elected president and that risk assets will celebrate accordingly today.
The third estimate of euro area growth in the first quarter provides clear evidence that measuring GDP is not an exact science. Real GDP rose 0.6% quarter-on-quarter in Q1, accelerating from 0.4% in Q4. This latest estimate is higher than the previous estimate, 0.5%, but in line with the first calculation. Eurostat and all the large Eurozone economies now provide early estimates of GDP, before data for the full quarter is available.
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External demand in France probably weakened in the first quarter. The trade deficit widened sharply to €5.2B in February, from a revised €3.9B in January, pushing the current account deficit to an 18-month high. It is tempting to blame the stronger euro, but that wasn't the whole story.
Following the summer recess, the U.K. Government has turned to the unenviable task of weighing up how much economic pain to endure in order to reduce immigration. The Government's insistence that Brexit "must mean controls on the numbers of people who come to Britain from Europe" suggests it is prepared to sacrifice access to the single market in order to appease public opinion.
Yesterday's EZ PMI data surprised to the downside. The composite PMI in the euro area dipped to 52.9 in August, from 53.2 in July, below the initial estimate 53.3. The headline was marred by weakness in the German services PMI, which crashed to a 40-month low of 51.7, from 54.4 in July.
The latest U.K. PMIs were unambiguously dreadful. The manufacturing, construction and services PMIs all fell in April, and their weighted average points to quarter-on-quarter growth in GDP slowing to zero in Q2, from 0.4% in Q1. The U .K.'s composite PMI also undershot the Eurozone's for the second month this year.
The hard numbers in Eurozone manufacturing continue to lag the sharp rise in the main surveys. Data yesterday showed that German factory orders rose 1.0% month-to-month in May, only partially rebounding from a downwardly revised 2.2% plunge in April.
The Italian economy slowed at the end 2017, and it continues to underperform other major EZ economies. Real GDP rose 0.2% quarter-on-quarter in Q4, a bit slower than the 0.3% gain in Q3, pushing full-year growth up to a modest 1.0%. This compares poorly, though, with growth of 1.6% in the euro area as a whole.
The two major EZ economic reports released while we were away conformed to the consensus. Advance data suggest that real GDP in the euro area rose 0.3% quarter-on-quarter in Q3, the same pace as in Q2, and the year-over-year rate was similarly unchanged at 1.6%.
Money supply data today should provide further confirmation of a moderate upturn in the Eurozone credit cycle. We think broad money growth, M3, accelerated to 5.0% year-over-year in April, up from 4.6% in March.
Activity surveys picked up across the board in April, offering hope that the slowdown in GDP growth--to just 0.3% quarter-on-quarter in Q1-- will be just a blip. The headline indicators of surveys from the CBI, European Commission, Lloyds Bank and Markit all improved in April and all exceeded their 2004-to-2016 averages.
Markets are trading like Emmanuel Macron has already moved into the Élysée Palace. Eurozone equities soared at the open yesterday, lead by the French banks, 10-year yields in France plunged, and the euro jumped. This makes sense given the signal from the polls. They were correct in their prediction of Mr. Macron's victory on Sunday, and they have been consistently forecasting that he will comfortably beat Mrs. Le Pen in the runoff.
Eurozone consumers' spending jumped in Q2, but we are pretty certain that a slowdown in retail sales constrained growth in Q3.
Weakness in risk assets turned into panic yesterday with the Eurostoxx falling over 6%, taking the accumulated decline to 19% since the beginning of August, and volatility hitting a three-year high. Market crashes of this kind are usually followed by a period of violent ups and downs, and we expect volatile trading in coming weeks. Following an extended bull market in risk assets, the key question investors will be asking is whether the economic cycle is turning.
The Eurozone economy is in fine shape, according to the latest PMI data. The composite EZ PMI fell trivially to 54.3 in January, but remains strong. A marginal dip in the services index offset a small increase in the manufacturing PMI to a cyclical high of 55.1. These data tell a story of a strong private sector that continues to support GDP growth.
Yesterday's national business surveys provided an optimistic counterbalance to the underwhelming PMIs on Monday, although they all suggest that the euro area economy is in good form.
Yesterday's IFO report reinforced the message from the PMIs that the Eurozone economy stumbled slightly at the beginning of the first quarter. The headline business climate index fell to an 11-month low of 107.3 in January, from a revised 108.6 in December, hit mainly by a drop in the expectations component. Intensified market volatility and worries over further weakness in the Chinese economy likely were the main drivers. Last week's dovish message from Mr. Draghi, however, came after the survey's cut-off date, leaving us cautiously optimistic for a rebound next month.
The PMIs are telling an increasingly upbeat story for the EZ economy in Q4. The composite PMI in the euro area rose to an 11-month high of 54.1 in November, from 53.3 in October. The uptick was driven by strong new business growth across all private sectors, and employment also increased in response to higher work backlogs.
Consensus forecasts expect further gains in this week's key EZ business surveys, but the data will struggle to live up to expectations. The headline EZ PMIs, the IFO in Germany, and French manufacturing sentiment have increased almost uninterruptedly since August, and we think the consensus is getting ahead of itself expecting further gains. Our first chart shows that macroeconomic surprise indices in the euro area have jumped to levels which usually have been followed by mean-reversion.
We sympathize greatly with investors' frustration over endless postponements and new "deadlines" in the negotiations between Greece and its creditors. Syriza delivered a proposal for reforms to the EU and the IMF on Monday morning, welcome d as a "positive step in the right direction" by Eurogroup president Dijsselbloem and Economic and Financial Affairs commissioner Moscovici.
Advance PMI data yesterday supported our suspicion that Q1 economic survey data will paint a picture of slowing growth in the Eurozone economy. The composite PMI in the Eurozone fell to a 13-month low of 52.7 in February from 53.6 in January, driven by declines in both the French and German advance data.
The flow of Middle-Eastern refugees taking the treacherous journey towards Europe continues unabated. UNHCR estimates of arrivals through the Western Balkan route--mainly originating from Greece and Serbia--suggest the average daily number of refugees has been stable so far between October and November at about 11,000. These data are very unreliable, but they indicate that the onset of winter on the European continent--and the added risk to migrants with no shelter--will not deter people from attempting the trip to Europe.
Expectations that the ECB will respond to weakening growth in China with Additional stimulus mean that survey data will be under particular scrutiny this week. The consensus thinks the Chinese manufacturing PMI--released overnight--will remain weak, but advance PMIs in the Eurozone should confirm that the cyclical recovery remained firm in Q3. We think the composite PMI edged slightly lower to 54.0 in September from 54.3 in August, consistent with real GDP growth of about 0.4% quarter-on-quarter in Q3.
Eurozone investors are fixed on Mr. Draghi's speaking schedule this week, looking for hints of the ECB's future policy path.
Sterling jumped last week to its highest level against the dollar since last October in response to news that a general election will be held on June 8. Markets are betting that the Conservative Government will sharply increase its majority, enabling Theresa May to ignore Eurosceptic backbenchers when she strikes a deal with the EU.
The German statistical office will supply a confidential estimate to Eurostat for this week's advance euro area Q2 GDP data. Our analysis suggests this number will be grim, and weigh on the aggregate EZ estimate. Our GDP model, which includes data for retail sales, industrial production and net exports, forecasts that real GDP in Germany contracted 0.1% quarter-on-quarter in the second quarter, after a 0.7% jump in Q1.
The Eurozone's external surplus rebounded further over the summer.
Mr. Draghi snubbed investors looking for hints on policy and the euro in his Jackson Hole address--see here--on Friday.
Momentum in the euro area's money supply slowed last month. M3 growth dipped to 4.7% year-over-year in February, from a downwardly-revised 4.8% in January. The headline was mainly constrained by the broad money components. The stock of repurchase agreements slumped 24.3% year-over-year and growth in money market fund shares also slowed sharply.
Negotiations between Greece and its creditors collapsed over the weekend, greatly increasing the risk of a Grexit. The decision by Syriza to call a referendum on the bailout proposal next weekend, initially advocating rejection, forced the Eurogroup to abandon negotiations and focus on "damage control." Hope of a final retreat from the brink rests with the Greek parliament deciding not to hold the referendum, and accepting the proposal presented on Friday.
The impasse between Greece and its creditors has roiled Eurozone bond markets, but the ECB is likely ready to restore calm, if necessary. We think a further widening of short-term interest rate spreads would especially worry the central bank, as it would represent a challenge to forward guidance. For now, spreads remain well below the average since the birth of the Eurozone, even after the latest increase.
The presumption in markets is that the French presidential election is the last hurdle to be overcome in the EZ economy. As long as Marine Le Pen is kept out of l'Élysée, animal spirits will be released in the economy and financial markets. We concede that a Le Pen victory would result in chaos, at least in the short run. Bond spreads would widen, equities would crash and the euro would plummet. But we also suspect that such volatility would be short-lived, similar to the convulsions after Brexit.
Difficult though it is to tear ourselves away from Britain's political and economic train-wreck, morbid fascination is no substitute for economic analysis. The key point here is that our case for stronger growth in the U.S. over the next year is not much changed by events in Europe.
Yesterday's money supply report provided further relief for investors doubtful over the cyclical recovery following the market turmoil. Broad money growth, M3, accelerated to 5.3% year-over-year in July, up from 4.9% in June, and within touching distance of a new post-crisis high. Narrow money continued to surge too, rising 12.1% year-over-year, up from 11.1% in June, sending a bullish message on the Eurozone economy.
On the face of it, the 25 basis points increase in 10-year German yields this month is modest. But the sell-off has reminded levered investors that trading benchmark securities in the Eurozone is not a one-way street. When yields are close to zero, investors also use leverage to enhance returns, and this increases volatility when the market turns.
Short-term interest rates in the Eurozone continue to imply that the ECB will lower rates further this year. Two-year yields have been stuck in a very tight range around -0.5% since March, indicating that investors expect the central bank again to reduce its deposit rate from its current level of -0.4%. This is not our base case, though, and we think that investors focused on deflation and a dovish ECB will be caught out by higher inflation.
The solid 0.2% increase in January's core CPI, coupled with the small upward revision to December, ought to offer a degree of comfort to anyone worried about European-style deflation pressures in the U.S.
Economic sentiment in the Eurozone's largest economy stayed solid at the start of the fourth quarter, despite subdued manufacturing and poor investor sentiment. The headline IFO business climate index fell slightly to 108.2 in October from 108.5 in September, due to a fall in the current assessment index. The expectations index rose, though, to 103.8 from 103.5 last month pointing to a resilient outlook for businesses and solid GDP growth in coming quarters.
Ian Shepherdson, Pantheon Macroeconomics, provides insight to the European Central Bank's path and whether to expect Mario Draghi to announce additional stimulus.
Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena SpA will step up efforts to win investors for an expanded debt-to-equity swap over the coming days, pressing ahead with a 5 billion-euro ($5.3- billion) capital increase as its options to avoid a state rescue dwindle. Pantheon Macroeconomics Chief Euro Zone Economist Claus Vistesen weighs in on "Bloomberg Daybreak: Americas."
Claus Vistesen has several years' experience in the independent macro research space, as a freelancer, consultant and, latterly, as Head of Research of Variant Perception, Inc. He holds Master's degrees in economics and finance from the Copenhagen Business School and the University of Hull.
Samuel Tombs has focused on the U.K. economy since 2009. Prior to joining Pantheon, he was Senior U.K. Economist at Capital Economics, leading the team which topped the 2014 Sunday Times' poll of forecasters. In 2011, Samuel won the Society of Business Economists' prestigious Rybczynski Prize for an article on quantitative easing in the UK.
EU-Japan free trade: Japan and the European Union agreed on an outline for a massive trade deal this week that will rival the size of NAFTA, the free trade accord that the United States has with Canada and Mexico, currently the largest one in the world. Claus Vistesen, the chief eurozone economist with Pantheon Macroeconomics, assesses what's in the agreement and why it matters (19mins 10 secs).
Chief Eurozone economist Claus Vistesen comments on the latest GDP figures from France
Chief Eurozone Economist Claus Vistesen discussing key current economic issues
Chief Eurozone Economist Claus Vistesen on French Consumer Spending.
Chief Eurozone Economist Claus Vistesen discussing the potential impact of the French Election Results on the Eurozone
Chief Eurozone Economist Claus Vistesen on the Greek return to the market
Chief Eurozone Economist Claus Vistesen with the latest on the French Election
Claus Vistesen, chief euro zone economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, says that the Catalan independence movement has no international support for its cause.
Chief U.K. Economist Samuel Tombs on the U.K. Halifax House Price Index in December
Pantheon Macroeconomics Founder Ian Shepherdson discusses the price of oil, the U.S. economy and the Greek crisis. He speaks on "Bloomberg Surveillance."
US home prices rose in November from October but the underlying trend continued to point to a slowdown in price gains, according to the S&P/Case-Shiller index released Tuesday
The Federal Reserve kept its options open on Wednesday, signaling that it would not raise short-term interest rates any earlier than June, while leaving unresolved how much longer it might be willing to wait before lifting its benchmark rate from near zero, where the central bank has held it for more than six years
The Federal Reserve said Wednesday it would keep short-term interest rates near zero until at least the middle of the year. The central bank's policy committee also signaled caution about low inflation and nodded to overseas uncertainty by including new language that it would monitor international developments. Here's how economists reacted
The U.S. housing market stumbled into 2015 as a leading indicator of home sales dipped in December
Ian Shepherdson on strong non-farm payroll numbers for February
Chief U.K. Economist Samuel Tombs on the impact of the Referendum
Chief U.S. Economist Ian Shepherdson on the Fed
Pantheon Macroeconomics Founder Ian Shepherdson discusses Fed policy. He speaks on "Bloomberg Surveillance."
Pantheon Macroeconomics' Chief Economist Dr. Ian Shepherdson provides unbiased, independent economic intelligence to financial market professionals.
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